Known to the L.A. art world from his tenures heading the Watts Towers and later Department of Cultural Affairs programs, way before that, Mark Greenfield earned an MFA from Cal State L.A., where he focused on painting and drawing. He's been making and showing art steadily all this time, but a new series represents a breakthrough for Greenfield -- the product not only of a recent surfeit of studio time, but of the soul-searching and voice-finding that go with it. The works in Mark Steven Greenfield: Doo-Dahz are based on historical portraits of blackface actors and created by a free-associative drawing technique not unlike a surrealist parlor game -- and, like many of those, with roots in psychological therapies. The process and its results have decidedly modernist influences in terms of composition and aesthetic strategy, but the political content remains undeniable, helped along by a certain dry humor in the constitution of the images. His zigzagging, semi-abstract interference patterns are interspersed with specific symbols from folklore and language, and cohere into the overall shape of a portrait, fusing abstraction and depiction along with medium and message. Transforming icons of mocking oppression into art objects with power and beauty is, if not quite redemption, then something close.
Fridays-Sundays. Starts: May 15. Continues through June 26, 2011