MARK STEVEN GREENFIELD
 

Mark Steven Greenfield’s reclaims photographs from the 19th and 20th century that feature blackface entertainers. These original photographs document a dark period in American history that was concomitant with lynching, slavery, and other acts that demeaned and exploited black Americans. Greenfield superimposes the photographs with text presented in the form of an eye exam chart, confronting the viewer with the legacy of blackface minstrelsy and its stereotypes of black Americans as “buffoons” and “inherently lazy children” who are dependent on the paternalism of their “masters” for survival. Since these short phrases read like an eye examination chart, they force the viewer to carefully partition the text in order to decipher its message. Uncle (2001) contains the phrase “So Whassup With This Shit” and features a blackface entertainer who is now given a voice by Greenfield. This historical photograph, once ostensibly muted by a white photographer, is given a new, contentious voice that alludes to the travesty of blackface. Whether speaking from Greenfield’s perspective or for blacks who were wrongfully misrepresented by their oppressors, the work allows for the reclamation of the white manufacture of black life and experience.

***

A native Angeleno, Mark Steven Greenfield, the son of Tuskegee Airman Russell Greenfield spent his early years on military bases from Taiwan to Germany. He was greatly influenced by the art and history that he came in contact with and as years passed he sought methods of communicating ideas through visual interpretation. He studied under Charles White and John Riddle at Otis Art Institute and went on to receive his Bachelor's degree in Art Education in 1973 from California State University, Long Beach. He held various positions as a Visual Display Artist, a Park Director, a Graphic Design Instructor and a Police Artist before attaining his Master of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Los Angeles in 1987.

From 1993 until 2002, he was the director of the internationally renowned Watts Towers of Simon Rodia. In his capacity as an administrator for the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles, he developed a reputation as a respected curator of exhibitions and was instrumental in producing the Annual Watts Towers Jazz Festival and the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival. In 1998 he served as the head of the U.S. delegation to the World Cup cultural festival in Paris and in 2002 he was part of the Getty Visiting Scholars program.

Mark continues to have an active life as a visual artist, exhibiting throughout the United States and abroad, most recently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia and the Laguna Art Museum. In 1997 he joined the faculty at Los Angeles City College where he teaches course work in Drawing, Design and Art History. He has served on the boards of the Downtown Arts Development Association, the Korean American Museum and the Watts Village Theater Company. Presently he serves as board president of the Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825 and is director of the Harbor Art Centers for the Cultural Affairs Department.


BACK
BROAD TERRITORIES : IMAGES OF IDENTITY