Interview: Daniel Leznoff

The Raccoon spoke to collage-artist Daniel Leznoff, whose Tumblr site has gained lots of attention with his chopped and spliced collage images. We were lucky enough to have Daniel make some collages exclusively for us here and also to chat about his creative process:

Permanent Beauty

Hi there Daniel, tell us a bit about where you’re based and what got you interested in collage artwork? 
I’m from Montreal. I began messing around with collages after becoming heavily influenced (musically) by Robert Pollard’s work with Guided By Voices and his many other projects. Following years of seeing his handmade collages as album art I started toying around with cutting and pasting, which is funny because I always hated this kind of work as a child. Nothing was more banal to me as a kid, and I have especially horrible memories of having to do a collage in middle school. It was so laborious, I just wanted to be reading. When we had to display our work – believe me it was work – mine was the smallest and least interesting, despite my having actually put much thought into it. I had no idea I would ever want to pursue this practice, which seemed to be the laughing stock of the art world. Back then my work was thematic, and juxtaposed political images – absolutely nothing like the work I create today, which is often devoid of meaning, or aspiring to appear seamless, and certainly not political in any way, shape or form.
I’m happy collage is taken seriously today, despite the controversy of appropriation and the assumption that a collagist may not have the talent to pursue other artistic practices that are more skill-based than craft-oriented. Composition is the reason I love collage. I love the way things fit together, I love diagrams, I love maps. I don’t really have any opinions about the democratization of art and what resources should be available to whom, but I very much appreciate being a humble bottom-feeder among the aesthetes. If I had a budget for anything I would not do collage. I would record music, make film or write. But the gutter has a nice view of the stars as they say and so I’m taking other people’s work and making it into my own the only way I know how, one collage at a time.
Your website states that you make a ‘new collage every day’, that must be a difficult promise to keep up?
I actually only post a new collage everyday. I’ve made nearly 700 pieces since 2010 and they fly out of an automated queue. I didn’t realize I was stockpiling images until my friends told me I had too many artworks that no one had seen. The site has been up since February and the response has been great so far. I find that one image a day in today’s web culture is hardly a dent, but I’m happy to contribute to the inundation of images nonetheless. I’ve been surprised and grateful to have a small cult following of people who check and respond to every post I put up. If the postings were less consistent it would be harder to gain traction in that regard.
Are there certain themes that continue to pop up in your art? 
I think themes appear unconsciously and I never take any time to recognize them. My work is part of a very superficial, visual experience. I do not object to people finding themes in an individual collage I have created, nor do I object to someone trying to describe where I fit in amongst other artists, but my responsibility is to just get these pieces down and make sure the glue is sticking right. I make the work first, and understand it later, or perhaps never. I recently became disappointed to notice that the majority of my work features faces, eyes, humans in photographed or illustrated forms and focal points in general. I am pursuing a more figurative approach currently. I like to feel as if the images I have selected were meant to be together, but I also like to feel surprised by arrangements. I like to feel.
Where do you find your images? 
I like to think that the images find me. My best recent find was at a church sale. A late-60s black and white hardcover book entitled A Pictorial History Of Wrestling by Graeme Kent. It’s full of masked bodybuilders beating the hell out of each other. It only set me back $3. Church sales have been good to me and this one was actually right in the church, not in the basement of courtyard. It seemed a strange locale to sort through pew after pew of junk, but church is a good place to find something. Other than that I might take a scrap of newspaper or a flier. In Montreal there is no shortage of gorgeously printed fliers for our many wonderful festivals. When I gather images I do make a point of trying to lift pieces that would be untraceable. When you just use old LIFE books and National Geographics you run the risk of generic sourcing. I have often seen other artists, even Robert Pollard, have already used images that I’ve used. It forces me to find more obscure pieces. 
Is there another artist that you think we should check out? 
Louise Mertens.
Where can people see more of your work? 
Dannycollage.com remains the definitive source, but the images get reblogged through tumblr, sometimes thousands of times. I have appearances in a zine and a group show coming up, and I’ve also just been contacted by a clothing line to provide some images for shirts, but I won’t mention anything specific in fear of jinxing these collaborations. The postcard company Petite Poste of Switzerland will be doing a run of my collages as postcards later in the season.
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