Martha Schwendener, “Keltie Ferris,” Artforum, March 2009, p. 247
The gallery is pleased to present Keltie Ferris’ first solo gallery show in New York, which will coincide with a solo project at the NADA Art Fair in Miami. Entitled Dear Sir or Madam and Sincerely Yours, the pair of exhibitions present new paintings dealing with notions of expression and identity.
Using oil, acrylic, and spray paint, Keltie Ferris creates layered abstractions in which the hard edged forms embedded within the under painting contrast with the soft blur of the sprayed surface to create visual and metaphorical tensions. Oscillating between the pictorial structures of Joan Mitchell and Hans Hoffman, clusters of brushstrokes and bursts of spray paint create “clouds” that dominate the picture plane while blocks and edges are squarely painted to create visual depth. Demonstrating a rigorous concern with spatial illusion and color relationships, her process often includes spraying translucent oil paint over scraped surfaces and cutting or peeling small sections to expose the under painting or raw canvas beneath the painting’s “skin.”
Representational elements such as teeth or eyes sometimes reveal the subtle image of a mask, which when coupled with a scavenger’s eye for surface, traces a lineage to artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean Dubuffet, or the CoBrA Group. In her most recent works, a mysterious, almost prehistoric symbol is carefully drawn with dots of spray paint in the foreground, which summons the Abstract Expressionist fascination with the spiritual, metaphysical, and unconscious.
Titles such as “Spider Silva” (a legendary fighter) and “Jobriath“ (the first openly gay pop star) engage the tropes of sexual identity, while “Jesus of the Moon” (a metaphor for a sleeping woman) and “Ragnarök” (a series of apocalyptical events) evoke more visceral, emotional associations. Using metallic silver and bright, almost fluorescent colors, the artist invites free associations with the era of glam, drag, decadence, The Factory, Old Hollywood, “space age” science fiction, and blatant artificiality.
Keltie Ferris (b. 1977, Louisville, KY) lives and works in Brooklyn. She received a MFA from Yale University in New Haven, CT and a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). She has been included in exhibitions at Artspace, New Haven, CT; Jack Tilton, New York; Markus Winter, Berlin; and numerous exhibitions organized by Simon Watson of Scenic. Her work has recently been discussed in L.A. Weekly and Details. She is the recipient of both a Jacob Javits Fellowship and a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant. Dear Sir or Madam is the artist’s first New York gallery show.