Konstantin Bokov was born in Ukraine in the 1940s, and spent his childhood herding sheep and playing the accordion, until one day in his early 20s he saw a Van Gogh painting at a Moscow exhibit. He was immediately inspired to begin painting, and his radical ideas and style were eventually the cause of his expulsion from the Soviet Union. Bokov immigrated to New York City shortly after Ð he settled in Washington Heights in 1975 with his wife and son, and has resided there ever since, becoming something of a local legend, a folk art hero.
As a painter and sculptor, Bokov has devoted himself to depicting the city and its residents in his unique, expressionist style. He has made the recycling of cultural and industrial waste a central theme in his work Ð much of his work is made from found objects, garbage, other peopleÕs wasted treasures. This junk-collage work was the subject of two personal shows in galleries in New York and San Francisco in the early 1990s, as well as a show at Philip Williams Gallery in 1999 that focused more on his whimsical expressionist paintings of the city and its scenes.
Notoriously an eccentric character, Bokov was recently the subject of a New York Times article that talks about the mark heÕs made on his Washington Heights neighborhood. Residents often marvel at the sculptures he leaves precariously on public steps, on tree stumps, or gives out as presents to neighbors. He makes wild representations of birds, fish, cars, all made out of old tires or found plastic Ð and signs them ÒBokov Recycle NYCÓ Ð images of nature and New York City that, whether they are scathing critiques or professions of love, are always full of whimsy and humor.
Along with the countless recycle monsters he has left as gifts to the streets of Manhattan and Washington Heights, Bokov has erected impromptu gallery spaces under the Brooklyn Bridge, on the George Washington Bridge, and on the piers of Washington Heights, most of which have been destroyed.