In Conversation With: Bockhaus

Bockhaus is a semi-anonymous artist based out of NYC, whose signature style and immersive exhibitions ask big questions about the US, its citizens, and its systemic problems.

Using a persona and obscuring his identity in public, Bockhaus creates immersive artworks and installations that explore dark, socio-political themes. Informed by his German Jewish background, Bockhaus reappropriates “degenerate art” and Neo Cubism to engage viewers, especially Americans, with topics such as racism, surveillance, propaganda, and the pandemic.   

Bockhaus will be exhibiting at Ki Smith Gallery in New York this May. 

EA: Can you describe your introduction to the arts?

B: The minute I could use my hands for holding I was drawing. From there it was a natural progression. I think my parents realized I had a proclivity for creativity at an early age and were supportive, fortunately. I attribute a lot of my early introduction to my grandmother as well, who is also an artist in her own right. 

EA: Has your journey been linear or were you interested in other things outside of the arts?

B: I don’t think anything is truly linear. I have other interests beyond the arts but those all feed and inform my artistic practice directly.

EA: How has New York inspired your work?

B: New York taught me how to hustle. The actual physical act of creating art is less than half of the work required for an artist to become successful (dependent, of course, on one’s personal definition of success). New York is so oversaturated, that it can push an artist to extremes. This challenged me to become the most extremely authentic version of myself possible in order to refuse the trends and tropes of being a creative person in this city and to stand out amongst the crowd. Still very much a work in progress.

EA: In your wide array of talents, such as painting, drawing, puppetry, animation, and film, is there one area that you personally gravitate towards more?

B: I don’t require a team to paint or draw, so I gravitate in this direction not necessarily by choice but due to requirement. I am, however, not beholden to any singular medium, rather I am at the beck and call of concept. Occasionally, the material dictates the concept, and sometimes it’s the other way around. The point is that the idea is always more important to me than the medium. The medium is just a tool to articulate the concept.

EA: Your work asks the audience to reconsider the human experience. What was your process of unlearning the norms that we’ve been taught about how to maneuver through such experiences?

B: Reading as much as tolerable. Listening and asking questions way more than making statements. I think unlearning for me has consisted of developing a less rigid way of thinking about the world around me by practicing empathy. We are all here together but experiencing vastly different realities. We have to come to terms with that as a species and learn to live harmoniously. Lastly, I would say fully understanding social norms and the motivation behind their existence will allow you to self-edit and decide which you perceive as having value (or not) on a personal level. At the end of the day, we are a society, so societal norms are only as powerful as we make them.

EA: At this time, what are you looking forward to?

B: My next solo exhibition entitled I’m Not Funded by the CIA at Ki Smith Gallery in Manhattan, opening in May of this year!