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Back in 2006 I was very active in the art scene in Los Angeles, in particular with downtown’s The Hive Gallery, the place that I would call my artistic hub for the following two years. During that time, I met an amazing group of artists from all walks of life, each of whom would influence my work in wonderful and unexpected ways. From this time period, I created a serious of pieces under the pseudonym bobo, and even went so far as to flesh out who this bobo character really was, and where he came from. Below, you’ll find an excerpt from an interview with bobo.
An Interview with Boris Botero
I meet Boris at a coffee house in Venice Beach, California. He sits casually on a large, green sofa sipping on hot chai as he browses through a local paper. He looks very young, not a day over twenty, I’m thinking, but I know otherwise. Boris is, in fact, twenty-six years old, and despite his young, punkish appearance, he’s actually a very successful commodities trader. Or at least he was, before he moved to Los Angeles a year and four months ago. Since then, he has not worked for a single day. These days, when he is not at the beach or skateboarding, he spends hours upon hours drawing pictures of monkeys. Not just monkeys, but monkeys engaging in mundane human activities. I’m determined to find out what’s in his mind.
TF: Your name is Boris Borges. However, I see that you don’t sign your pieces as Boris, but as Bobo. Can you tell me about your nickname?
BB: Certainly. I’ve always felt a bit self-conscious about my name. It’s so very serious; it’s hard to be casual with it. A few years back, I had a girlfriend who called me Bobo as a way to shorten my name. Boris Borges—Bobo. I thought it was very cute. Anyways, no one else called me Bobo, but her. It was, you know, her private name for me. When I started drawing these pictures, I thought it would be nice to go with a personality that matches their playful style, so Bobo seemed very fitting.
TF: Did you have a nickname for her? Your girlfriend, that is?
BB: I did, but I’m not gonna share that with you. Sorry. It’s private.
TF: Can you tell me about your interest in monkeys? What do they mean to you?
BB: You mean why I draw monkeys?
BB: Well, I find them to be the perfect icons for the things that I’m trying to say. I know I’m young, but given the profession I picked from early on, I’ve gotten to see people in a very primal environment. Believe me, there is hardly anything that you would call ‘civilized’ about the financial world when you come right down to it. That’s not saying anything bad about it, don’t get me wrong. I want to be clear about that. It’s just…a part of human behavior.
TF: Can you tell us a little bit more about your past, and how you ended up in Wall Street.
BB: Where should I start? I’m from Jersey. I’ve got two brothers. Cops, both of them. Drives my folks crazy. I, on the other hand, wanted to have nothing to do with law enforcement. I wanted to make money. Lots of it, you know what I mean? My idea was to go to Wall Street right out of high school, and make a million dollars. It sounds so shallow when I say it like that. But that’s what was on my mind. So that’s what I did. I went to Wall Street, got a job as a janitor, got to see more or less how things worked. Little by little I moved up, and up, meeting people, making friends, staying out of trouble, and fast-forward two years, I was on the floor trading commodities. I could make it a long story, but that’s really all you need to know about it.
TF: Did you get to make your million dollars?
BB: (smiles) Well, I did alright with money. I made some, I lost some. Actually I lost lots, but nothing to get too depressed about. People have a funny way of dealing with money; I mean, during my entire professional life, I’ve been around people whose livelihood is the acquisition of money. That is, to these people money IS the business, not a byproduct of their business. So you can imagine how seriously people can get about the act of manipulating money. It’s such a distorted view of the world. And then, you have the opposite end, and you have people my age who are utterly clueless about how to make money, or more importantly, how to keep it. There is an imbalance there, somewhere. That’s one of the things I’d like to explore.
TF: Is this why you quit your job in Wall Street?
BB: Yes and no. Maybe subconsciously. Yeah, I’d have to say that it wasn’t a very conscious decision. One day, I walked out onto the floor, and for once, I became aware of all that commotion. You know, hundreds of people waving their little pieces of treasures up in the air, signaling furiously at someone on the opposite end of the room, and I thought, wow. What am I doing with these apes? Am I missing out on anything important by being here? I just didn’t have it in me to do the job I was supposed to be doing, so I figured I needed a break. I hadn’t taken a real vacation since I started trading. I got my girlfriend to take some time off, and off we went to the Bahamas. That was the beginning of the end.
TF: How did you end up in LA?
BB: That’s a long story. But one major factor was that I wanted to get as close as possible to the birthplace of skateboarding as I understood it. I wanted to see if that culture was still alive and kicking in this city.
TF: Can you tell us about your work?
BB: I thought I just did.
TF: I mean, your work as an artist.
BB: Oh yeah. Sorry. It’s just that I don’t really think of myself as an artist.
TF: Is it because you weren’t formally trained?
BB: Yeah, I guess. I mean, my skill set is fairly limited. I just kind of doodle, you know? But I do have a point of view, and I guess that’s what catches people’s eye when they see my work. To answer your question from earlier, the pieces I do are sort of snapshots of every day thoughts that a regular person might have. I know that sounds very generic, but it’s the best way I can describe it.
TF: A lot of your pieces do have a sense of understated wisdom to them. I’m thinking in particular of pieces like “Find the smart ones, learn from them”
BB: Yeah, well, part of why I started doodling was so that I could communicate simple, but important ideas to young people. Parents are always complaining about how their kids don’t listen. Well, guess what. They do listen. It’s just that they’re picky about what things they choose to listen to.