In 1955 Chicago native Len Poteshman became a member of the investigative police force which assigned him the task of making composite masks of suspected criminals for the FBI. Now 64 and retired from the force, Poteshman can’t get mask making out of his blood and he’s found a new context for his sculptural experience. Describing his technique as “dimensional painting,” he does acrylic group portraits, then affixes three-dimensional fragments of faces onto the surfaces of his paintings. The parade of different mugs that traipse through Poteshman’s work are all variations on a basic cast taken from the artist’s own face.
Needless to say, this work is rather surreal--a bit ghoulish in fact--and its sinister spookiness is heightened by the subject matter. Poteshman, you see, is keen on those classic Twilight Zone themes, puppeteers and clowns, but even when he moves away from demented circus performers, his work gives off a peculiar scent. “Gene Conspiracy” is a weird sci-fi scenario, while “Cosmic Rip” is a painting of clouds that features a rip down the center of the canvas; a cluster of white faces (angels?) have spilled through the rip. Working out of an idiosyncratic and deeply personal vision, Poteshman identifies himself as a folk artist of the first order. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to Jan. 27.)