Mark Steven Greenfield & Mark Dean Veca, curated by Betty Ann Brown
Mike Curb Galleries at CSUN, Northridge
through March 14
Written by Eve Wood
Creating a convincing dialogue between two artists can be a daunting task. It’s like divining water – it’s strangely mystical, yet when the relationship is right, the results can be mesmerizing. Graphic Subversion on view currently at the Mike Curb College of Art gallery at CSUN showcases the joint darkly cynical musings of Mark Dean Veca and Mark Steven Greenfield respectively. Both artists seemingly derive inspiration from familiar cultural referents like Charlie the Tuna from the Sunkist Tuna brand, Tony the Tiger, the advertising cartoon mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, or the visual trope of Mickey Mouse’s raised fist amid a dusty skirmish of cartoon bodies. Both artist’s imagery speaks to a time when life was easier and less informational, where kids watched Saturday morning cartoons and rode their bikes through the neighborhood without the fear of being abducted.
While on the surface the work in this exhibition might appear less content driven and more about easily identifiable cultural referents, I would argue that the deeper content of these artist’s works as a collective whole suggest the leavings of a devastatingly superficial culture where such larger issues of discrimination, gender politics and personal freedom are tucked neatly away behind the guise of familiar anthropomorphized creatures whose only objective is encourage us to become better Capitalists. Both Veca and Greenfield utilize the element of scathing humor to great effect here, opening up dialogues about the complexities inherent in the human condition.
In his luminous “Portrait of George Walker,” a famous African American composer, the subject’s face is comprised of various itinerant shapes that reference the blackface minstrel shows that persisted well into the 20th Century. The image is much more than a portrait of a single man, but becomes a map of human atrocities, the practice of blackface chief among them. Similarly, Mark Dean Veca’s portrait of Bugs Bunny, seemingly having “disappeared” leaving behind only the deceptive outline of his body. Bugs Bunny has historically been described as a trickster, a deceptive character whose insouciance made him an icon of American culture. Veca portrays a character whose sense of personal responsibility extends the length of his nose and no further, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going. As with Greenfield’s incisive and complex work, Veca’s “Super Genius” connotes culpability with Americanism where Bugs Bunny gets away with everything simply because he is charming. This is a familiar trope in American culture where the hero is often deceptively magnetic. We are drawn into the humor of the image only to realize its darker more sinister underbelly.