Trenton Doyle Hancock’s art draws on and subverts traditions


Trenton Doyle Hancock’s solo exhibition, “Good Grief, Lousy Grief,” will be a reunion of sorts when it opens at Shulamit Nazarian gallery on Saturday — a recommingling of superheroes and villains who stay somewhere among great and evil. The Houston-based artist, 1 of the youngest persons at any time to […]

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s solo exhibition, “Good Grief, Lousy Grief,” will be a reunion of sorts when it opens at Shulamit Nazarian gallery on Saturday — a recommingling of superheroes and villains who stay somewhere among great and evil.

The Houston-based artist, 1 of the youngest persons at any time to show at the Whitney Biennial at the time he participated in its 2000 and 2002 editions, works in portray, drawing, sculpture, printmaking and effectiveness — but more than something, he is a universe builder. About the final 25 yrs, he’s fleshed out a forged of comedian-book-like people that continuously look in his artworks. Three of them arrive alongside one another in “Good Grief, Poor Grief,” the artist’s next solo exhibition at the gallery. The present the two attracts from and subverts classic myth narratives although also checking out race, class, identity and power dynamics in America.

There is Torpedo Boy, Hancock’s perfectly-indicating but usually wayward change moi whom he invented in the fourth quality there’s the bespectacled Hancock-the-artist, a much more direct representation of Hancock and there are the Vegans, a society of pale, emaciated-seeking characters who operate jointly towards the demise of the Mounds, a civilization of half-animal, fifty percent-plant people that system negativity from the earth and emit shade in its spot.

The Vegans are active processing tofu by way of fantastical-on the lookout factories in the 6-foot-tall, 9-foot-broad painting “The Skint Alterpiece: Vegans Make Deposits at the Tofu Lender.” The piece, a teeming fictitious cityscape, is composed of hundreds of collaged ink drawings and is dizzying in its density. The canvas’ surface area is sculptural, with portray accents and affixed faux fur and bottle caps.

A work of art in black, white and red.

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “The Skint Alterpiece: Vegans Make Deposits at the Tofu Bank,” 2020.

(Shulamit Nazarian)

“Step and Screw: 7 Foot Furry Confront Off” depicts Hancock gripping a giant pencil and engaged in a face-off with Torpedo Boy. A klansman’s hood floats over a stool amongst them. The 7-foot-tall get the job done, which is made from minimize and collaged fake fur, is portion of Hancock’s ongoing “Step and Screw” collection, which speaks to electric power structures and white supremacy in The usa.

The exhibition also includes a chapter of Hancock’s in-progress graphic novel, which will be manufactured up of about 1,000 pen-and-ink drawings above four volumes. The webpages on check out in the exhibition will be exhibited on a giant grid with 19 drawings independently framed. The reserve job is Hancock’s attempt to give his unwieldy fantasy narrative — the Moundverse — a linear composition. In a way, it is his try to make perception of his life’s do the job, he says in this edited dialogue.

“Most of the ebook will be obviously grounded in fantasy involving monsters, mutants and tremendous beings,” he claims. “However, each individual third or fourth chapter will be based mostly largely in serious-existence scenarios that are elaborations on points that truly occurred to me.”

Your people are equally good and evil at once, and your work would seem to be about the gray locations between all those two polarities. Exactly where does this impulse come from?

I consider that concerns of fantastic and evil are not preset truths — I check out to exploit the versatility and possible of these two ideas in my characters. My figures routinely oscillate involving staying protagonists and adversaries because I come to feel that we’ve all been just one or the other in our life time. That unique fact grounds my narratives.

Philip Guston is evidently a visual and conceptual influence in your function. When did you very first come across his do the job, and has he served you sort an inventive language for addressing racism and other units of oppression?

I was released to Guston’s work in ’94 when I was studying printmaking as an undergraduate pupil. I was currently investigating imagery of the [Ku Klux] Klan and was just beginning to dissect the kinds of nooses, hoods and other loaded symbols. After I observed Guston’s perform, I promptly felt a kinship. My take care of was strengthened as an imagist and I was in a position to double down on my exploration. But these ideas about racism and justice have very little to do with Guston’s capability to manipulate paint and to craft an emotional environment via portray. It is the latter that I’m mostly however a college student of.

A black-and-white image with two male outlined figures standing opposite each other, a pointy Klan hood between them.

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “Step and Screw: Seven Foot Furry Experience Off,” 2022.

(Ed Mumford / Shulamit Nazarian)

What is occurring concerning Hancock and Torpedo Boy in the portray “Step and Screw: Seven Foot Furry Experience Off?”

The moment that you’re viewing in this piece was lifted straight out of my 2014 “Step and Screw” comedian. In this comedian, there’s a panel wherever my alter moi, Torpedo Boy, is experiencing off with 1 of Philip Guston’s Klan figures in a darkened area with a foot stool between them. The klansman is keeping one particular of Guston’s iconic lightbulbs, and he’s handing it about to a visibly aggravated Torpedo Boy. I call this minute “The Trade.” A several yrs ago, I commenced a series of expansions of the “Exchange” series by substituting one character in the put of an additional. With “Seven Foot Furry Face Off” I have changed the klansman with myself, “the artist,” and as a substitute of a lightbulb (image of ideas) he’s offering up the severed head of a klansman (or probably it’s an empty hood?). There is no apparent strategy of what happens following, and I prefer my pictures to finish that way.

You grew up in a incredibly religious residence. To what extent has that informed your work?

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family with extremely rigorous regulations that generally clashed with my innate tastes. Even however I never totally thought in the truthfulness of the Christian mythos, its structure was yet imprinted on me. By means of my mom, stepfather and grandmother, and their rigor of ritual, I uncovered how to make speech, images and parables that truly feel succinct and crucial. I have hundreds of several hours listening to songs and sermons to credit score for that.

Even while I respected my family’s approaches as clergy people, I fought in opposition to issues of wholesomeness and purity in the only way I realized how, by way of drawing and portray. Even however I haven’t lived underneath my mother’s roof for 25 many years, I truly feel as although I’m even now rebelling in opposition to the Bible as I see it at this time weaponized in point out politics. In artwork school, I was expected to review numerous photos of Jesus nailed to a cross, which were images I was now nicely acquainted with. This saturation in the motif prompted me to make my very individual edition of Jesus and the saints. I created the Mounds, Vegans, Torpedo Boy and the relaxation of my figures of consequence in reaction.

A black-and-white comic strip.

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s in-progress graphic novel, “Trenton Doyle Hancock Provides The Moundverse: Chapter 2 Veganism,” 2020.

(Shulamit Nazarian)

Your graphic novel pages on perspective depict a clash concerning a society of Vegans, the law enforcement and various other of your people. What is this a commentary on?

The Veganism chapter of my forthcoming graphic novel is a comical just take on extreme behaviors regardless of whether it is from a group of radical human vegans, an overzealous group of imaginary Vegans, a roided out [on steroids] superhero or a couple of magically corrupted police officers. This chapter also elaborates on how the ability dynamics in between two groups can transform abruptly dependent on a range of aspects. When the Vegan chapter does not drop simply into a specific political commentary, there is a statement about absolute electric power to be located (it corrupts unquestionably, rinse and repeat).

Were you generally a comedian guide admirer rising up? What other pop cultural or artwork historic influences advise your operate?

I was absolutely a comedian ebook fan developing up and I generally aspired to make comics. Nevertheless, at the collegiate degree, I grew to become interested in portray, animation and editorial cartooning. I usually soar back again and forth concerning these different modes of earning and I come across that they inform just one a different.

How have your people — and your fantasy narrative — advanced more than time in response to your have lifestyle ordeals?

I both paint from own knowledge or I consider conditions that are achievable or plausible primarily based on a set of my personal established policies. This will allow for a broader composing/portray field than my very own lived activities. In many regards, I am the just one who learns from my character’s experiences, not the other way around. I use my figures to achieve a richer knowledge of the planet, and my narratives have a tendency to put together me for upcoming existence hurdles and inevitabilities.

‘Good Grief, Negative Grief’

In which: Shulamit Nazarian, 616 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles

When: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, Sept. 17-Oct. 29.

Price: Free of charge


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