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Review: Keltie Ferris' paintings vibrant yet vapid

Both the title and the contents of Keltie Ferris' show, "Doomsday Boogie," bring to mind Piet Mondrian, especially his acclaimed painting, "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1942-3). The Brooklyn-based Ferris, too, trades in planar, geometric -- or at least loosely so -- shapes, arranged with a nod to the rhythms of urban life.

Her paintings, made with sprayed oil pigments, feel like unkempt street versions of several more elegant precedents, not just the work of Mondrian but also Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.

The total, however, is less than the sum of its parts. Ferris' show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art is small (just three paintings) and also thin. In the two large canvases, blocks of color (peach, acid yellow) edged in bright dashes of sunflower, cerise or periwinkle, jostle and pulse against blue-black grounds. Shards of silver, pink and blue slash the surface. Layers oscillate between translucent and opaque.

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For all the amped-up electricity of the palette and rawness of the graffiti-related method, however, the paintings feel bland. They are vibrant, yet vapid. One tall, slender piece, about 8 feet tall and just a few inches wide, reads like a Morse code column of primary-colored dashes and dots -- a message of more urgency than consequence.

Santa Monica Museum of Art, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 586-6488, through April 5. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.smmoa.org

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