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THE PERSONAL FILE

Explorer of past enjoys the present

December 09, 2007|Lynell George

An L.A. native, Mark Steven Greenfield has long been one of the integral support beams of L.A.'s civic art scene. Now the director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park, Greenfield, for nearly a decade, was director of the Watts Towers, curating exhibitions as well as producing signature city events -- Watts Towers Jazz Festival and Watts Towers Day of the Drum. He has still found time to make art and has exhibited extensively.

His deeply probing solo show "Incognegro" at Santa Monica's 18th Street Art Center confronts and critiques the lingering after-image of blackface and minstrel iconography. He gives Lynell George the rundown on what's essential to keeping up with both the past and present.

TV PICKS

"Jeopardy" is fast-paced brain candy. "Life & Times." I have mixed feelings about it coming to an end. I love Val Zavala. Lately I've gotten hooked on "Pushing Daisies" -- it's got a cast of characters that remind me of people I know.

IN THE NETFLIX QUEUE

"El Topo" is a surrealistic western that I missed in the '70s. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, it's part spaghetti western and part Dali/Bunuel, with a little Peckinpah thrown in. "Seven Beauties" and "Swept Away." "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang. There are some lessons there that we have yet to learn.

IN HEAVY ROTATION

ON THE IPOD

Miles, Miles, Miles Davis, from "Kind of Blue" to "Bitches Brew" with everything in between. Also among my favorite picks are Sun Ra, Vinx, Inessa Galante, Moacir Santos, Rachelle Ferrell, Jehlisa, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and anyone who ever played with Miles.

BED STAND LIBRARY

"Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South" by Tara McPherson is a remarkably honest look at the origins of contemporary perceptions about race in America. She has articulated those considerations that are at the base of the sometimes difficult artwork that I'm doing. Another resource is "Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture" by John Strausbaugh. There's a copy of Artillery magazine. . . . It's an unpretentious publication on the arts in Los Angeles. Waiting to be read is "Dark Side of Fortune," by Margaret Leslie Davis, which chronicles the triumph and scandal of Edward Doheny, L.A.'s own oil baron.

CULTURAL ADDICTIONS

I've been going to galleries from the time I learned to drive. There is such a glut of art spaces in this town and so much good stuff to see. The Watts Towers are something that I'll never get out of my blood. The place exudes creative energy, and I have to go back from time to time to recharge my batteries.

SECRET WEAPON FOR NAVIGATING CULTURE

I've found that the best way to get around the cultural landscape of L.A. is to avoid caffeine, maintain a sense of humor, take surface streets (you'll see and learn more).

-- Lynell George

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