December 2019

The captivating layers of colors and of shapes. The monstrous stitching of flesh to robotics. When the grotesque transition into the comical the work of John Vochatzer can be discovered. The proficiency of the razor blade and attention to detail may or may not have anything to do with achieving this style and feel. Let’s find out if there is any truth to all things collage.

What brought you to explore this medium?

I first started making collages almost 15 years ago and at this point it's a little bit hard to recall exactly how it first seduced me. I think some things just happen naturally, and when I first stumbled upon the work of artists like Fred Tomaselli and Hope Kroll it immediately felt nostalgic in some strange way, and like something I knew I needed to pursue. Collage always, at least as I've approached it, has been magical in that it's a medium in which the process is almost always more cathartic than the outcome, as I think art should inherently be. I don't know where the quote originates from but I recently heard collage described as "the association of disassociated realities", which to me very adequately sums up it's appeal. Constantly scouring book fairs, thrift stores, estate sales, ebay or what have you only to rip everything apart and reassemble it according to the whims of your own desire and imagination is a joy and an obsession that can't easily be described. Collage is anarchic, collage is adventurous, and most of all it's a beautiful deconstruction (and then reconstruction) of our collective world as it exists in printed and digital media.

You are a tattoo artist by day and collage artist by night. How does this help or hinder your direction?

In all honesty the two are of their own separate worlds, and although there is some occasional overlap where someone wants me to adapt some of my collage work into tattoo form, the two don't really have any relation beyond that. I've realized, for me anyways, that collaging and drawing/tattooing rely on completely different modes of thinking, and switching those gears sometimes can be a little rough. I try to not have only one foot in the door with anything but at least with the collage work I give myself the liberty to work at my own pace. I turn down nearly all commission and design requests in that field because it's nice having a creative outlet that's not entirely encumbered by money and trying to making a living and all that. Collages find their way through just about every culture of art.

You mentioned something about people not taking cut and paste collage work seriously.

Why so?

There is definitely a very rich history to collage that I think a lot of people aren't aware of or just simply overlook. On top of that it seems that in general people tend to regard collage as more of a craft or a lesser, fringe art medium. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that many people do gravitate toward making collages because it doesn't necessarily require the same amount of patience and practice or just inherit talent as say oil painting or illustration. People often want to be creative, and they want an outlet to express themselves, but they lack either the confidence or just general wherewithal to apply themselves to a more traditional medium. I don't personally see anything wrong with this, as I've always been a big proponent of amateurism and outsider art. To quote Lautreamont, I firmly believe in the idea "poetry should be made by all" regardless of scope or technical prowess. Conversely, coming from a long background of drawing and painting before I branched into collage, I myself try to apply the same level of detail and discipline as a typical painter would and I usually incorporate other mediums such as paint, ink, and resin.

True or false, you did the largest collage mural in the US?

Based off the research I did at the time, it was (and perhaps still is) the largest as far as paper-to-surface square footage goes. Granted it's not a record that would necessarily be well documented and I could be wrong, but to my knowledge the only larger wheatpaste mural in the world was done by Handiedan in Berlin a few years prior. I did my mural in 2015 on the back of my old job in the SF Tenderloin, using 1600 square feet of printed color imagery on a 3000 square foot wall of which we painted the background. The mural lasted less than a year, somewhat expectedly, as collage isn't the most durable medium for the outdoors. This is likely why large scale murals of this variety aren't more common. Following the deterioration of my mural I've at least had the pleasure and privilege of curating that wall, which has since hosted the work of Italian street artist Ozmo, and currently my friend and studio mate Max Ehrman.

This exhibition is loaded with layers of painstaking symbolism. We feel your work can be on view for months and still be refreshing. What can we expect from you in the future?

My mind is always jumping around in so many directions it's hard to say what to expect, as I usually don't even know myself. I do have a big exhibit coming up in Europe early next year that I'm heavily grinding on a new series of collage work for. After that I'm pretty set on taking a solid hiatus from the massive, intensely detailed pieces, if not collage in general for who knows how long. Aside from feeling like on some unconscious level I'm starting to pigeon-hole myself a bit, I also think I've more or less plateaued with the current aesthetic I've been doing. I'm going to take some time to just focus on drawing, painting, and tattooing and come back to the collage work however long down the line when I feel like I can reapproach it with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of invention and playfulness.