December 5th, 2012

Keltie Ferris’s first show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash brings us a dozen large-scale paintings that thrive in the expansive capacity of that gallery.

Keltie Ferris, "Turn Turn Step Step" (l) and "You + Me=Me + You" (r)

The paintings develop some of Keltie’s signature techniques, including spurt bursts of color and layers that overlap, mask, or interact those beneath them.  Each appears to begin with a geometric substrate the edges of which push through to the surface.  We see sheaths of parallel, zig-zag stripe circuits, some broken into dotted lines.  The phosphorescent bursts hover in a slippery sleeve of the figure-ground relationship and create alluring optical effects.  Bracketed by tight, staccato accents, they generate the illusion of radical depth.

Keltie Ferris, "O*P*E*N" (l) and "Siasec Yem" (r)

Her titles include asterisks and punctuation marks that push referential meaning into emoticons and colloquial customizations that become physical and performative.  For example, I read the stars or asterisks in O*P*E*N as fingers snapping or contemporaneous love taps.  Turn Turn Step Step is more obvious, mysteriously delimited by spaces, not commas.  The semaphoric figures in O*P*E*N could relate to the characters in the title, but they aren’t unique to this painting, which is an opportunity to expand Keltie’s established vocabulary.  This one reminds me of Space Invaders imagery and it also seems to converge with other great painters of ziggurats and shuffling geometry, such as Joanne Greenbaum.  Other titles, such as Siasec Yem and You + Me=Me + You are aptly, and biographically, referential.  The latter of those contains an wavelength of fleshtones that shift from bottom to top, like the Pygmalion-kissed sculpture of Galatea; this winding quantum of melanin hues weaves through a blue border that bifurcates the whole canvas.  Gorgeous.

Most importantly, this show opens up new emotive territory.  I’m speaking subjectively.  With Keltie’s earlier paintings, which had so much in common with these, formally, I was astonished and liberated by the exuberant, unapologetic amplitude of her palette.  Here, I felt awakened, elated, and moved.  Maybe I’m settling in to her work in a new way, maybe it’s the new space, maybe I’m abiding by an erotics of art in place of a hermeneutics of art.

Keltie Ferris Has a Show | “New York Close Up” | Art21 from Art21 on Vimeo.

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