Abstracting Abstraction: Lee Krasner, Keltie Ferris, Odili Donald Odita, Liz Markus and Christopher H. Ho

Charlie Finch, Artnet, November 23, 2010

I don't think there has been as wide a divide between the wealth-flaunting art elite and the rest of us markers and scribblers since the reign of Rameses II. It was evident during my meander around Chelsea last Thursday night to see the opening of a few exhibitions of abstract art, a week after the auctions packed up and left town like a bejeweled travelling circus, which is, of course what the high end art world has become.


So dead was the Chelsea scene that I began to chalk up all the cities which are now ahead of New York in art demand and art dollars -- London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, etc. New York emerged tenth on my list, yet another marker of the fast-declining American empire.


Taking a cue from the Ab-Ex survey at the Museum of Modern Art, which has three Lee Krasners on view, Robert Miller Gallery is presenting a show titled "Lee Krasner: Paintings 1959-65." Unfortunately, seven of these paintings, all of which feature a chocolate fudge swirl motif resembling the bottom of a carton of Baskin-Robbins, and done from 1959-61, comprise the ugly center of a very drab show (sorry, Mrs. Pollock, you had a couple of off days!). The artist Beth Riesman told me that they reminded her of Vic Muniz's chocolate syrup drawings. Touché, Beth.


A personal favorite, Keltie Ferris, has brought her bubbly spray painting style to the Horton Gallery on West 22nd Street. Greeting friends in the Mickey Rooney 1940s style clothes and bob which she has made her own, Keltie was more infectious than her new paintings, which while celebrating the bursts of light that are her trademark area little too slavish to the grid. However, Man Whisperer is one of her best yet, if you are looking to buy. Classic James Rosenquist solutions of scale and color contrast would suit Keltie fine as she sprays her way forward.


Over at Jack Shainman Gallery, a serious space, the veteran Odili Donald Odita debuts a room full of jagged-edged dagger colors, which has been his signature long before Mark Grotjahn and Torben Giehler hit the scene. Odita’s kind of overall assault of color and line is tiring immediately, like pumping Morris Louis full of Ecstasy and handing him a razor blade. Perhaps you could stand to own just one, but I doubt it.


Liz Markus is not really an abstract artist, but she suffers from the same in-your-face appropriation of sharp words and obvious colors at ZieherSmith's delectable new space on West 20th Street, a raw ground-floor gallery that’s an ideal venue for sculpture. Roberta Smith, Mike Cockrill, Martin Bromirski and Chris Martin were reeling around in front of a double portrait of Johnny Rotten in a Shetland wool sweater. Liz should trust herself a little more and avoid the ironic golden holes of Gavin Turk, Rob Pruitt and so many others. We have seen it all before, so why should we see it again from you?


Another retro bit is Christopher K. Ho's conceptualized suite of Kurt Schwitters imitations at Winkleman Gallery. Ho anagrammed his name into Hirsch E.P. Rothko and as the fake painter he faked some triangle paintings redolent of Schwitters. Maybe, artists, since Chelsea is fast falling out of world fashion, we could rip off the party masks for awhile and just be ourselves?


Original Publication