Mark Dean Veca is a painter and installation artist whose signature style of opulently obsessive fine-line drawing and bold color creates canvases and both indoor and outdoor murals that are visually alluring, impressively analog, witty, a tad political, and pretty dark for what is allegedly pop art. Veca is adept at transforming or reimagining common images like brand and corporate logos, cartoon characters, signage and advertising tropes, the extra-lushness of Baroque era architecture, and classic French wallpaper into fresh critique of modern visual culture. Lately, he’s been thinking a lot about Popeye.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
MARK DEAN VECA: I first started thinking of myself as an artist when I was in second grade. I’d be copying a cartoon or something and the other kids would say “Ooh! You’re a good artist!” and I’d think “Oh. Really? I guess I’ll keep doing this!”
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I weren’t a visual artist, I’d be a musician or a writer. Or a baker. Maybe an importer/exporter. I’ve only ever had part-time jobs, mostly working for galleries and museums, before I was able to become a full-time artist.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I went to Otis Art Institute in L.A. in the early '80s. I don’t think I ever questioned the idea of college, unlike some people. It was just what was expected. But I was excited to go, and originally planned to study illustration until a professor, the great Jill Giegerich, convinced me to pursue fine art. So I got my B.F.A. from Otis but had zero desire to go to grad school.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I moved to L.A. from the Bay Area suburbs in 1981 to go to art school. San Francisco was too close to home and New York, too far away. It took a semester to acclimate, but after that I was hooked on the city — for about 10 years. After that I spent 17 years in NYC and really loved it, but in the back of my mind I always thought I’d return to California someday, which is really the best place on Earth, and did so in 2008.
When was your first show?
My first legit group show “Splat Figures” was in 1994 at White Columns [in] NYC curated by Bill Arning; and my first solo gallery show “Gummi Grotto” was at Kravets Wehby Gallery [in] NYC in 1998.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show/s?
My most recent show “The Troubled Teens: Work of a Decade”, featuring works from the last 10 years, was up at Jason Vass Gallery in the downtown L.A. Arts District this past winter.
I have three new paintings in “The 90th Anniversary of Popeye Art Exhibition,” which will tour China starting in Beijing this June and ending in Shanghai in September.
I’m hosting an upcoming community engagement event near the new Metro station currently under construction at Wilshire and La Brea, where L.A. Metro has commissioned me to create a site-specific artwork. Check out Metro.net/art for more details soon.
My ongoing installation, Passaggio di Pop, 2018, is on view at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento indefinitely.
Future shows include a two-person with Mark Steven Greenfield at the Cal State University Northridge Art Gallery (February 2020) and a solo exhibition in the main gallery at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (September 2020).
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I’d like to show with some of my favorites like Philip Guston, Rebecca Morgan, Ed Ruscha, Louise Bonnet, and R. Crumb.
Website and social media handles, please!
Facebook: Mark Dean Veca Studio