Western Project is proud to present an exhibition of paintings by Los Angeles artist, Mark Dean Veca. The body of work, When the Shit Hits the Fan, chronicles the end of one American era and the beginning of another; the dissolution of the 'American Dream' amidst the collapsing economy and the lost dominance of America in the world order. His images come from American pop culture: the board game Monopoly (which came out during the 1930's depression), the Warhol dollar sign, Big Daddy Roth drawings and Walt Disney cartoons and characters from the 1950's, and the US presidential seal. Veca uses these images to meld the past and the present; Uncle Scrooge McDuck (Donald Duck's rich uncle) is portrayed against a green background as a big game hunter; his foot resting on bags of money, his eyes created with hundreds of small dollar signs; a riveting indictment of contemporary corporate America. A counter point is Veca's Mr. Pennybags, a Monopoly character who confronts the viewer with his empty pockets extended in a blazing red background.
When the Shit Hits the Fan, is the presidential seal reconfigured, reminiscent of the Ramones punk logo, the text of E Pluribus Unum replaced by the unexpected title - done in stark black and white, the symbolic eagle appears mutant echoing the BP oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.
Veca's impolite paintings are both fast, and immensely slow to reveal themselves. His monochrome backgrounds hold an atmospheric tension, while the figures upon close inspection are created with thousands of lines as festering and decaying shapes, giving them a palpable presence. Drawn with India ink by hand (no digital overlays or screening), the rich details reinvent the characters as both humorous and poignant. Mirroring our cultural attitudes of greed, violence and rampant materialism, the paintings also invoke the tradition of history painting and the genre of social portraiture. In line with Goya's court paintings and William Hogarth's scathing satirical works, Veca points to a culture gone wild; his Armor in Command uses Big Daddy Roth's Viet Nam era hot rod imagery to evoke a war machine run amok, and Warner Brothers' beloved cartoon graphic, That's All Folks! as a cancerous colon/void for the post 9/11 world.
But the slowest aspect of the works is it's intrinsic devotion to truth - his immaculate craftsmanship is a passionate hat tip to the punk ideal (Never Mind the Bullocks was a romantic scream) of a better world ahead; destruction unearths something better ahead - and jostling the funny bone helps along the way.
This exhibition follows Veca's installation, Revenge of Phantasmagoria at the Instituto Cultural de Cabanas in Guadalajara, Mexico, a career survey at the University of California, San Diego, Phantasmagoria at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Berlin and Bern, Switzerland. He is the recipient of the 2010-11 COLA Individual Artist Fellowship as well as grants by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts, plus residencies at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, and the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Veca has created designs/products for Nike and Burton Snowboards.