Interview with Collage Artist Josh Alan

How would you describe your creative style?
I grew up romanticizing the Abstract Expressionists and early Pop artists. I tend to work closer to the Ab Ex painters like Kline and Pollock. Only I use a blade instead of a brush. Rauschenberg started me down this serious pursuit of collage. I had already gravitated towards the medium, but finding him took the foot off the brakes.

What’s your inspiration?
I try to at all cost to avoid the word. I don’t want to be dependent on inspiration, but it doesn’t show up all that often. It’s an idea so tied with the mythology of the Artist with a capital “A.” My job is to make regardless of how I feel. Some days are great. Others are not. I always describe it like riding a bike up a mountain. A long slow, arduous process full of difficult problems to solve followed by strong bursts of progress.

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What is art to you?

In “Between the World and Me” Ta-Nehisi Coates says something to the effect of, “To write is to think.” I think the same is true of art. Art is the gears turning.

How do you keep motivated?
It’s easy for me to stay motivated to work. I love to make work. It’s the only way I know to process information and respond to it in a legible way. It’s much more difficult to pursue the profession. It is an impenetrable fortress, the Art scene. It’s nonsense, but I love it so here I am.
There is so much great art and music being made right now so it stays exciting and makes me want to make something.

Interview with Collage Artist Josh Alan on Jung Katz Art Blog
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?

Surroundings are everything if you’re working honestly. You evolve to your environment. For me, it was being raised in antique stores, auction houses, and flea markets. I got an eye for the value and beauty of items of history. My grandfather and father were serious photographers. Through college, I worked in a used bookstore where I got almost all of my source material. I later became a darkroom photography teacher which pushed my work in collage to the camera.

I think it’s important to conform to your limitations and allow them to shape the work. It keeps it direct and personal and honest.

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What do you want others to take away from your work?

Too much of the work being made right now is purely visual. It’s product. It has no purpose beyond commerce. I want my work to take a side, say something, and ultimately move the viewer in some way. I don’t want to be mere decoration.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Don’t expect anything big, huge, and exciting. It’s just work and perseverance. It’s a game of dedication. Nothing comes easy and if it does you should be highly suspect.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I can’t recall any direct advice. I’ve learned the hard way. I would pay good money for a solid mentor. If anyone knows Jenny Holzer or Mark Bradford ask them if they have time for me. Richard Serra would make for an excellent mentor, but I’m too intimidated by him.

What art supplies do you use?
Almost all paper, photography books, a couple of Olympus digital cameras, a Canon 35mm film camera, Mamiya medium format camera, disassembled books to print on, watercolor paper and wood panels for collage. Tape and glue help too.
Interview with Collage Artist, Josh Alan on Jung Katz

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What’s your process like?

My background is in rummaging and collecting. My parents were antique dealers so I picked that up from them. I work directly with photography books. I hunt through used book shops for clearance items or through the recycle bins out back of the bookshops. I cut directly into the pages with a fabric roller and shift the debris to reveal the following pages. Once I start to find an interesting composition I photograph it. Mostly digital, but more recently film. This is a very spontaneous and fast-paced potion of the process. I take 100-400 photos in a session. From there it’s editing down to the good stuff. I try to limit the digital editing to minor light and color adjustments. I add text and create page design from there.

Follow Josh Alan on Twitter and Instagram.


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