Mark Steven Greenfield
Offramp Gallery is pleased to present Mark Steven Greenfield: The Egun Squad, from September 13 - October 11, 2015. There will be an opening reception for the artist on Sunday, September 13 from 2-5pm and a closing reception and artist's talk on Sunday October 11 from 2-5pm. The artist's talk will begin at 3pm.
Fresh on the heels of his critically acclaimed retrospective, Lookin' Back in Front of Me, at the California African American Museum, Mark Steven Greenfield offers five large figurative ink and acrylic pieces on Duralar and four abstract works for his fourth solo exhibition at Offramp Gallery.
The works are from Greenfield's Egungun series (pronounced e-goongoon) and deal with duality in the form of blessings and curses. The tradition of the Egungun came to the new world through the African slave trade and is practiced in its truest form on the island of Itaparica off the coast of Salvador, Bahia, where Greenfield was awarded and participated in a Sacatar Foundation artists' residency in 2013.
The practice involves the channeling of ancestral spirits for the purpose of advising generations and passing down knowledge, but the Egun is something of a trickster and while he possesses positive energies, he has equally potent negative energy. It is said that his touch can result in a death-like curse.
Hey, Hey It's Ya Birthday has a lot to do with Greenfield's preoccupation with dualities that face us throughout our lives. From the time we are born, we are essentially preparing for death. Greenfield uses fields of cotton metaphorically as our plane of life, which can be both comforting and soft, but can also hide thorns which cause us distress. Success often depends on how good a navigator you are. The cake is something associated with birthdays and its melting appearance marks the passing of time, while the machete can be used to both clear the path and end life. The costume conceals the spirit with as neutral an expression as is possible.
In I sing the Body Techneric Greenfield characterizes technology as a blessing that provides us with ways of making life easier, but often at the expense of intuitive knowledge, tradition, adaptability and a host of other things that make us individuals. We have become unwitting slaves to it, allowing it to weigh us down and causing the "little death" in the part of our souls that lives to be curious. The figure's vision is obscured by thumb drives, as we are sometimes blinded by too much information, creating a trance like state, not unlike those experienced by Eguns.
Other works in the series deal with the medical industry and law enforcement and employ line work as glyphs that constitute positive energies that keep negativity at bay.
A native Angeleno, Mark Steven Greenfield studied under Charles White and John Riddle at Otis Art Institute in a program sponsored by the Golden State Life Insurance Company. He went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Art Education in 1973 from California State University, Long Beach. To support his ability to make his art, he held various positions as a visual display artist, a park director, a graphic design instructor and a police artist before returning to school, graduating with Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from California State University, Los Angeles in 1987.
From 1993 through 2010 he was an arts administrator for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; first as the director of the Watts Towers Arts Center and the Towers of Simon Rodia and later as the director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. In 1997 he also joined the faculty at Los Angeles City College where continues to teach courses in Drawing and Design. In 1998 he served as the Head of the U.S. delegation to the World Cup Cultural Festival in Paris, France and in 2002 he was part of the Getty Visiting Scholars program. He has served on the boards of the Downtown Arts Development Association, the Korean American Museum, and The Armory Center for the Arts and was past president of the Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825.
Greenfield’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States, most notably at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art and the California African American Museum. Internationally he has exhibited in Thailand at the Chiang Mai Art Museum, in Naples, Italy at Art 1307, Villa Donato and the Gang Dong Art Center in Seoul, South Korea.
His work deals primarily with the African American experience and in recent years has focused on the effects of stereotypes on American culture stimulating much-needed and long overdue dialog on issues of race. He is a recipient of the L.A. Artcore Crystal Award (2006) Los Angeles Artist Laboratory Fellowship Grant (2011), the City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship (COLA 2012), The California Community Foundation Artist Fellowship (2012) and the SacatarFoundation Artist Residency in on the island of Itaparica, Brazil (2013). He was a visiting professor at the California Institute of the Arts in 2013 and currently teaches at Los Angeles City College.