One of the exhibitions we have been looking forward to this month is Mark Dean Veca’s “Paintings, Wall Drawings, and Collaborations” (teased) at the University Art Gallery at UC San Diego opening tomorrow, Jan 29th, 6 – 8:30 pm. His psychadelic and organic style is unique and has often been described as a mixture of pop culture imagery and 18th Century French “Toile de Jouy” style patterns. As relatively new fans of his, we were particularly interested in learning more about his work as this show has been billed as somewhat of a retrospective and comprehensive overview of the last 10 years of his career. Mark has been working on the setup and installations for about two weeks now, and we were honored that he took time out to sit down and do an interview with AM yesterday. What he had to say, and all the preview pics from our visit after the jump…

Arrested Motion (AM): Your last show, “Phantasmagoria,” at Otis College of Art and Design was quite well received, but perhaps not as well known was that fact that you were appointed the Fall 2008 Jennifer Howard Coleman Distinguished Lecturer and Resident there. Was this your first experience with teaching and how was the whole experience for you?

Mark Dean Veca (MDV): Well, this was not my first time teaching, but it was the first time I was so intensively involved. The residency was over a period of 8 weeks – three weeks installing the show and the final five weeks working with students. My interaction with the students consisted of studio visits of about an hour each time, where I would talk about and critique their work. I’ve done similar things in the past but it was only for a few hours on a single day.

People have asked me in the past if I ever taught or wanted to teach and I always said it would be very difficult to be a good teacher and this experience basically reaffirmed that. It was really hard to look at all the work and find interesting things to say about it, to be helpful in each instance. It was very draining.

AM: We know that you graduated from Otis. As a successful alumni, you were invited back for the show and residency, how did you you get involved with the University Art Galley at UCSD?

MDV: Stephen Hepworth, the curator, has been at UCSD for about year. I had worked with Stephen before when I showed at the Bloomberg Space in London, where he was one of the curators. He had seen my work at the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center which was part of the first greater NY show. Based on that, he offered me a show at the Bloomberg Space, which was a great venue in London for contemporary art. After he started working at UAG, he proposed that I work on something here. Initially, it was just the outside space, but it eventually ended up involving the entire interior gallery space as well.

AM: Tell us a little about this show. Although you will have some new works, this will be kind of a retrospective so it must be a little different for you.

MDV: I been telling people it’s an overview of the past 10 years or so of my work. So I have the exterior and interior wall drawings which are very similar to the ones at Otis, but I’m changing a few things so it’s kind of like a spin off. I’m also showing reproductions (photos) of past mural projects like the one I did in London, and the one at PS1, which normally don’t get to be seen once they are destroyed. I have never shown them anywhere out of their original context. We also have prints, older drawings, paintings from last few years, collaborative projects with Nike, Original-Fake, Recon, Burton, and Ford, some design oriented and street wear collaborations. Plus, there are also studies, designs for big mural projects, and videos.

AM: Speaking of Original Fake and KAWS, that was how we were originally exposed to your work. Have other people told you the same thing? Did you notice a new influx of fans and admirers perhaps from a different demographic? How was it like working with KAWS?

MDV: Yes, the new influx of fans sort of happens with pretty much with everything I do to a lesser or greater extent depending on the project. With KAWS, the collaborations were seen very widely with a particular group of people, and with a great response. I have to credit Brian (KAWS) for actually seeing my work, and being able to visualize how we could collaborate on these projects. His vision was actually a big part of making it happen. It opened up a different road for me to go down for my work as well. For example, the “popeye” you see outside grew out of this process of working with KAWS even though they are not related. It all comes from the techniques learned from those experiences.

AM: We see a lot of imagery in your work with an anatomical influence – brain gyri, intestines, hearts, etc… Can you explain their significance?

MDV: It’s funny that you ask that because one of my assistants asked about the intestinal imagery today.  That stuff is definitely there, but it’s not like I set out consciously to make a bunch of intestinal shapes. It comes out when I draw, all improvised. Not just intestinal shapes though; I see it as different systems, reproductive system, digestive systems, almost like a cycle of life… Being born, growing, dying, and decaying.

AM:  We’ve read that you used to be a museum guard?  Did spending time there surrounded by all those paintings affect your work today?

MDV: Actually, I was an already an artist when I got that job. But, it was a pretty interesting job in certain aspects because no one spends more time with the artwork than a museum guard, not even an artist. Standing in front of paintings for 12 hours a day, 3 – 4 days a week for several months at a time… It was kind of amazing. We all go to the museum, look at a painting, then go to the next one and the next one, and then we leave. As guards, we get stuck with the paintings, and we really get to know it. The other good thing was since I was new to NY at that time, I got to meet a lot of other young artists working at the Guggenheim. It was a nice introduction.

AM:  Can you tell us a little about other projects or shows planned for 2009. We see that you have something scheduled in Louisiana, where you were born.

MDV:  That’s a project I’m hoping to do at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. It was originally scheduled for the beginning of 2008, but I had to postpone it because I moved from NY to LA and there was no way to get it all done. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it in the Spring. Another project I’m working on is in Guadalajara in the Fall, which is around the same time I’m showing at Jonathan Levine. I’m also working on a comic book called “Hotwire.” So, it’s a pretty busy year already.

AM: Well, thanks for your time. We look forward to seeing the show when it opens.

For our readers, we recommend getting there a little early as it takes a little time to find the Mandeville Center, where the gallery is located. Opening night is Jan 29th, 6 – 8:30 pm. For those interested, there will be a “Artist Talk” with Mark on Feb 26th at 7:30 pm at the Ledden Auditorium [rm 2250] in the Humanities & Social Sciences Building.

Signed Show Card and Poster Contest

We also have two sets of signed show cards and posters to give away for two lucky readers. You can thank Mark when you see him. Deadline is February 1st (noon). Details here.

Discuss this show here.