Brian Sherwin: Mr. Hochbaum, you have been working on "photo constructions" for more than 10 years. Can you give some insight into the process? Why did you decide to focus on this?
David Hochbaum: Well. most of my work is photo-based collage. When I get an idea that I want to translate into photography, I'll sketch it out and then try to find the right model for the job. Depending on the shoot, I'll sometimes build sets, some more elaborate than others...whatever I leave out I can paint in later.
I do all my own printing still, I love working in the darkroom. My printing methods are mixed, I love the fine print as well as sloppy, scratched paper and negatives...experimentation is endless. The prints are mounted on wood and , well I'll paint and collage and screen print ontop of the photos...lots of media.
I am learning a lot with each body of work I do. Photography came sort as an accident for me, I needed to fill a course at community collage so I took basic Blk & white. I loved it and it helped me to decide to go to art school in Boston. I needed a school out of NYC, too distracting.
The anal retentiveness of photo bored me..I was looking at artists like Rouchenberg and the Starn twins and wanted to push photo a bit more. I love the spontaneity of collage and the techniques of painting and hands on building in the wood shop...really I just could not afford to mount and frame all my work so I built my own. Over the years I picked up other techniques to combine...there is a lot to learn.
BS: In your work you've created a world full of strange creatures and surreal landscapes. The images remind me of the troope plays from the 1800s and how they utilized movable sets and outlandish costumes in order to create a living environment within the context of their performance. Are you influenced by the past in this manner?
DH: Oh yes indeed, I love opera and ballet, and limited types of theater..the past has always been a big influence on my work. I've been looking at the shit since I was a child and it has helped make me the kind of artist I am..
BS: David, you have exhibited at the Strychnin Gallery in Berlin and NYC. Can you share some of your experiences exhibiting at those galleries?
DH: Strychnin approached me in Jan 2006 to do a show with them and I was thrilled. I have never been to Berlin and they were excited to work with me. Yasha, the owner of the gallery, has been so good to me. She is very supportive and works her ass off to make me look good. He treats her artists fantastic. I look forward to working with her on many future projects.
BS: Your artist agent is Les Barany. He is also the agent of H.R. Giger, Irina Ionesco, Robin Perine and other established artists. How did you meet Les? Care to share insight into the business side of art?
DH: I work with Les on specific projects. He is not my agent in the traditional sense of the term. If he can pull me into one of his projects, we discuss it and see if it works. I do not work exclusively with an agent..I do have limited contracts with certain gallerys.
I met Les when I was art director for a club in NYC. He was installing an HR Giger room on the top floor and I was to work with him on it and over-see it after it was up. After a few weeks I mentioned that I was an artist, he looked at my work, and thought we should try to work together.
It is on and off with us, he has many other artists he works with and is always busy with something. I have no insight to the business side of art. it makes no sense to me.
BS: When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?
DH: I suppose it was when I was at the Museum School in Boston. The people I was surrounded by were as enthusiastic about making art as I was and our lives were absorbed with it. It became a part of life to the point where, like now, I cannot see myself not creating or building these objects which personify ideas.
I remember the day , as well, when I realized that I needed to make a choice about how serious I was, cause its not the easy road to take, that's for sure. I saw no other way to live.
BS: David, how has society influenced your art? What are the social implications in your art?
DH: I live in it so it gets in..all of the pictures I make tell a story, a lot of them are about relationships, one on one rather than statements of the populous..but the emotions I play with in my imagery are universal, so it is not hard to be able to relate the the characters in the portraits...The themes change though, from each body of work.
The most recent body of work is less restricted to myself and people close to me, it is more of a reaction to the state of affairs in my country and the world... it is not very blatant though. Not an obvious political point of view type work... I guess when you are fed up you cannot conceal what you feel and it comes out.
BS: Where can we see more of your art?
DH: Well, my web site for one... Also the Goldmine Shithouse site...That is my collaborative group. The next solo gig I have is at the Corey Helford gallery in LA. THATS in Sept. There are a bunch of group shows and art fairs as well. It is all posted on my site and updated frequently.
BS: Do you see any trends in the 'art world'? What is your opinion on said trends?
DH: I try not to comment on that too much so not to offend anyone, people tend to take me the wrong way when I state my opinion about trends. I am not a fan of trends. But I do see a lot more opportunity for unknowns to get a shot. I like that.
BS: David, what was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?
DH: Its like anything else, up and down. Finding the time to work can be tough. Its not easy to maintain in an environment like NYC, unless you come from money, and I don't.. but I love it here.
I've been here most my life. So by now I have a system to survive...an amazing group of supportive friends, I've been tending bar for over 9 years to help pay the bills. I've hit the rocks a few times and I'm sure I will again... its part of the gig.
I have a lot to learn and never want to stop learning and evolving, no matter what the reaction from the critical eye i may get. I don't do it for the praise or money, if I'm broke, I make smaller work or draw.
BS: With that in mine... in one sentence, why do you create art?
DH: It is one addiction of mine. I see no need to stop.
BS: If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?
BS: David, would you suggest that emerging artists pick up as many skills as they can? As you mentioned, framing can be expensive. What other advice do you have for someone just starting out?
DH: Well yeah, skills help... the tricky thing is that is is also a matter of natural talent and passion. I would say to find what you love and focus on it, don't spread yourself too thin just to make it or whatever.
Well, I started making my own frames cause I can't afford to get it done for me. Over the years I learned more and it has evolved from there. Pick wood outta the trash, get a hammer and screw gun..look at the frames you like and copy them the best you can. I dunno.
BS: David, your work has been in several major art fairs recently. I believe I saw some of your work at either the Bridge Art Fair in Chicago. . What is your opinion of art fairs? Do you enjoy them more than the traditional gallery setting? Some artists are tossed on this issue. They admire the fact that so much work and be shown to so many viewers, but at the same time they think that the amount of work takes something away from each individual. Would you agree? Or do you enjoy the 'visual chaos'?
DH: I am new to them, it has only been 2 years that I've been in any. I like going and seeing the smaller ones, it's a good chance to see what is up with so many artists at once. At the same time I know what it takes to get in, you need a gallery and money so it is a limited arena of art.
My friends and I started up our own called Fountain last year where we set up shop across or nearby the larger festivals. we build up raw spaces, install lighting..and throw a kick ass party. I find it very inspiring and see that it has that effect on a lot of the people who come to see us... I like that.
However, I see these festivals as a tool for scouts and trustees and shit like that in the elitist art world so it is no surprise to me that the individual gets lost in the mix.
BS: Finally, as I know you are busy... what are your goals for 2008?
DH: Survive it... I have dedicated most of my time to Strychnin gallery in Berlin and London. I wanna slow down a bit, only a bit, and focus on all the things that I've been exploring lately..but who knows, things change so fast... I only wanna keep working and traveling.
Take care, Stay true,
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