OC Artist Trace Mendoza is ‘Always Lurking’

Trace Mendoza creates hypnotic work that makes you feel inspired, inquisitive and strangely euphoric.


A seemingly schizophrenic fixation with cultural iconography, his Southern California homeland, psychedelic design, deconstructivism, and unlikely pairings, OC artist Trace Mendoza finds strange and fascinating narratives in his creations that are just as fantastical and weird as the artist himself. With an overtone of whimsy, Mendoza’s artworks combine the darkness of the unknown spaces in each of us with the bright and colorful obsession with advertising, capitalism and cultural pressure that is inherent in our culture. The end result turns out to be a fun yet eerie psychedelic experiment in shifting perspectives on the mundane and “normal” aesthetics that bombard our senses daily. Mendoza’s key subject in his recent work is the omnipotent Santa Claus, who is more of a “Big Brother” type of character than the traditional gift-giving Christmas spirit that some of us are often brainwashed into loving.


Mendoza’s current body of work is traversing across the great divide of the LA and OC counties to show in Santa Monica at the always entertaining Daniel Rolnik Gallery. Director Daniel Rolnik warns the public about Mendoza’s solo debut show in a creative, slightly anxiety-inducing way—claiming he is allowing Mendoza to flood the gallery, in honor of an important personal flood Mendoza experienced during his college education at Laguna College of Art and Design.



Rolnik finds Mendoza’s work exciting and engaging ad has been collecting and working with Mendoza since 2012. Mendoza’s original paintings have been showcased in art fairs such as SCOPE Miami and the LA Art Show as well as 25 exhibits in Southern California at galleries like Art Cube, AR4T, BG Gallery, and Flower Pepper Gallery. In addition to his gallery work, Mendoza has painted murals for The U.S. Open of Surfing, Legacy Car Show, the Doll Hut Music Venue, Wahoo’s of Costa Mesa, and the international surf brand Hurley’s headquarters in Orange County. These murals have received over one million combined impressions online and have even been transformed into limited edition Converse sneakers and Hurley board shorts.



Mendoza’s practice revolves around his notebooks. With his constant work in brand design and commercial graphics, Mendoza explained to us that the versatility of his practice is extremely important to his larger satisfaction with art-making. Originally influenced by skateboard graphics, punk rock, cartoons and historical artists, Mendoza’s practice shifts materials and styles when needed. “This show focuses on my stream of consciousness and its transformation from sketchbook to other formats of representation,” Mendoza tells us. “I will be showing various paintings assembled on multiple panels as well as illustrations and sketchbook pages.”



“When you hold one of the little books in your hands, it’s like holding an ancient artifact of tomorrow,” Rolnik explains. “Something anthropologists will dig up in Anaheim, where Trace grew up, and analyze as a bible-like tome of information. These little works in the books eventually take on larger meanings and find themselves further deconstructed and reborn onto large, multi-dimensional panels.”

collage Trace_Mendoza_images

Trace’s work is visually fascinating and curiously hypnotic, as his background in advertising and design infiltrates his creative headspace to the point of innovation, invention and criticism. You can see the SoCal design influence easily, and his traditional art education peeks through some of the work as well. It is unclear whether or not there will actually be a flood inside the Daniel Rolnik Gallery in Santa Monica, but it is obvious that even with just his art, Mendoza will be hypnotizing and flooding the minds and eyeballs of all who come and see his first solo show at this tiny epic gallery.


“Always Lurking” opens Saturday, December 12, 2015 from 7pm – 11pm  and will remain on view until January 1, 2016.


Daniel Rolnik Gallery


1431 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401


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