|MARK STEVEN GREENFIELD|
Mark Steven Greenfield, "Portrait of Billy Kersands"
May 15 - June 26, 2011 at Offramp Gallery, Pasadena
Mark Steven Greenfield’s incisive automatic drawings in his “Doo Dahz” series continue his intense exploration of the minstrel in blackface and its accompanying prejudicial symbols. The implications of the minstrel in black face in American culture are summed up in potent portraits that reveal the rampant exploitation, racism and stereotyping encased in this musical format. Greenfield adds depth and poignancy to his portraits of well known minstrels, who are both black and white, through his concise drawing. By selecting a musical tradition that is fraught with complexity and mirrors race relations at the time, Greenfield artistically parlays the many layers of the image of the minstrel, delving into the white performers and later on black performers who exaggerated and appropriated ideas from black culture that helped to institute inbred caricatures and stereotypes.
Mark Steven Greenfield, "Portrait of Billy Kersands," 2010, ink on duralar, 36 x 24".
In “Portrait of George Walker,” a black performer in blackface, the symbolic face of the minstrel is filled with squiggles and marks completely covering the surface. The hair, eyes and forehead are filled with dense lines and patterns. In addition to the rich social content, Greenfield’s equal mastery of form is readily apparent in the rhythmic shapes that play across Walker’s face, each serpentine mark combining to make the whole dynamic. The eyes are a form of op art, with a zig zag line intersecting the pupil to produce a dazzling image. The portrait is both anonymous and individual, the blackface becoming a mask that both mirrors the emotions and hides them. George Walker was a talented late 19th century African American minstrel who, with his partner Bert Williams, called themselves “The Two Real Coons,” and produced the first musical with an all black cast. In both minstrel and vaudeville acts, the duo popularized the “cakewalk,” a dance based on a West African festive dance. How ironic that this brilliant performer had to cover his own dark skin with the stereotypical blackface. The tiered complexities of this masquerade are what Greenfield alludes to throughout the exhibition.
Mark Steven Greenfield, “Portrait of Rosetta Duncan,” 2011,, ink on Duralar, 36 x 24".