July 2008, In Conversation with Douglas Landau

Douglas Landau, Dougwah, 2008

Brendan Wilcox speaks with Douglas Landau

I made it over to Douglas Landau’s building that he watches for his good friend every summer and spoke about old New York, collage, and the meaning of life. We sat on the couch drinking cold beer, coming down from the heat of the day. Doug sprawled out on the couch and smoked Marlboro cigarettes furiously and described what he calls, his drive.

“So when did you first start doing collage?” I asked. He said that it started in San Francisco in the late seventies. He was living the end of the counter culture sixties dream, long hair and cloudy thoughts.

“My first collage pieces were like post cards. I would use a background, a figure, and a word. I remember walking around with a shoe box full of them at a fair and I sold every one.”

“I remember cutting blues from magazines and it was like a wave. I started this in Florence, Italy when I was living there. I had decided to get out of New York and the Lower East Side and had subletted my apartment during some of my travels. I had left this particular collage underneath my bed and when I came home the people staying there had thrown it out.”

 Douglas Landau, Dougwah and Tiny Tim, 2008

 Douglas Landau, Clinton, 2008

Perhaps this is part of what Doug describes as fate, or destiny, he moves in a realm of almost lizard calm, living life as a true bohemian. He is from a time and attitude that is missed in today’s sped up world of quick fix art, and boring jawing about who’s who.

Doug continued to recall how he started on his medium of random collaboration. He worked in the basics. Before Photoshop, or scanners, when Apple was still a growing vision in Steve Job’s universe. A time when New York was on fire with the smoke of burning cars and vacant lot’s were more prevalent than condos. AID’s was a mystery, and we were all afraid to drink out of the same cup.

“I always toyed with collage, or the arts, and never took it seriously. In 2001 I took a class at the Arts Student League. I realized that I didn’t need to go there to work. I made a green collage and then a red one. I didn’t like either one until I put them side by side.”

Doug’s work is an affect. You need to look at it closely to see the relationships. His work is about color and texture. It melts before your eyes like a candy in the hot sun.

Douglas Landau, Satanism Goes Mainstream, 2008

 Douglas Landau, Little Doug, 2008

“I like to take photographs out of a magazine and isolate a small segment.”

“One time I saw Andy Warhol walking down the street and started to follow him. I don’t know why.”

“I like the random. It’s about things happening to me rather than things just happen. It is the fate element of life. Why are we here? How does the sperm reach the egg? All life is destiny. I chose the ingredients, the magazines or the element that I choose to cut. I put them in a box, the scraps and shake it up. I stop myself from thinking.”

“My work is different. It keeps me going. I go back and forth about whether I’m true. I see work on the wall of my friend’s daughter’s school when I pick them up and think…why me?”

Doug is finding light at the end of the tunnel. It is a drive. Life moves fast and he takes it slowly. Reaching for elements that we all see and want, but cannot separate.

 Douglas Landau, Fale AIDS, 2008

Douglas Landau, San Francisco, 2008

Douglas Landau was born in Manhattan. He travels constantly, mostly sticking to South America. His work utilizes tiny stimuli to form a whole. The deconstructed images from magazine cutouts form an intricate kaleidoscope landscape inviting viewers to dive in. His compositions engage content, color and movement in a uniquely conceptual manner.

In the mid 1980’s Landau opened the now legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. There he produced shows by artists such as Blue Man Group, Steve Buscemi, DANCENOISE, Paul Zaloon (Beakmans World), John Zorn, Ethyl Eichelberger, and many others.

Brendan Wilcox

Brendan Wilcox is a journalist in New York City.

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