To look at one of his paintings is to fall into a wilderness of delicious artifice. The UCLA professor, 55, will be featured on PBS' "Art: 21" on Oct. 28 and has a show at L.A.'s Regen Projects II that, with its Chagall- like peasants and eggs in an iron pot, departs from his deeply coded style.
The work really started changing with the  show I did for the Gladstone Gallery in New York that showed different rooms of a house. In mid-career, exactly where I am now, that's where most artists falter. . . . Maybe the work is going through what appears to be a literalization of images. But that doesn't mean that the content isn't still somewhat coded.
WHERE DID THIS DOMESTIC THEME COME FROM? IT'S UNUSUAL FOR YOUR WORK.
DO YOU AGREE WITH ART WRITERS WHO SAY YOUR WORK IS QUINTESSENTIALLY L.A.?
[Laughs] I have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. That is a comment that's most often made by baby boomers; they still have a nostalgic idea of regionalism. Contemporary culture has incredible similarities in Berlin, Brooklyn, Copenhagen, London.
SO YOU'RE NOT TAKING VISUAL CUES FROM YOUR STUDIO IN LOS FELIZ?
I am a snob in some ways, but I'm not a snob when it comes to reconnaissance and observation. Driving from my studio to my home in La Crescenta, I pay attention to everything.
WHERE DO YOU GO IN L.A. FOR INSPIRATION?
I love retail culture. I'm a shopper. I look at design, textiles. . . . I'm very interested in furniture design. From La Brea corridor to Beverly to 3rd Street to Robertson, all those corridors of retail I know well.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I'll always take the time to look at the women's clothes and shoes. It's not that I'm interested at all in wearing them, but I am interested to see how they're made and what ornamentation is taking place. It's not that it's a correct view of American culture, but it is a view.