Exhibition opens Sept 29 – Nov 17, 2017
Art League Houston (ALH) is excited to present the 2017 Texas Artist of the Year exhibition: Texas: 1997-2017 by Trenton Doyle Hancock, one of Texas’ most celebrated and influential contemporary artists. The exhibition focuses on work made by the artist during the past two decades in which he has lived and worked in Texas and features more than fifty works in a diverse range of media, including mixed-media, painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. The works in the exhibition highlight a vast cross section of materials and textures that not only trace the development of the artist’s epic narrative, but also mark the significant evolutions within the artist’s dynamic and imaginative art-making practice. The exhibition opens Friday, September 8, 2017 with a reception from 6 to 9 PM, and will remain on view through November 4, 2017. A limited edition 2017 Texas Artist of the Year catalog will be available in conjunction with the exhibition featuring an essay by Sue Graze.
For almost two and a half decades, Trenton Doyle Hancock has been constructing his own surreally beautiful and fantastical narrative that continues to develop and inform his prolific artistic output. Part fictional, part autobiographical, Hancock’s work pulls from his own personal experience, art historical canon, comics and superheroes, pulp fiction, and myriad pop culture references, resulting in a complex amalgamation of characters and plots possessing universal concepts of light and dark, good and evil, and all the grey in between.
“Being from Texas is such an important part of my narrative” says Hancock. “I’ve spent most of my forty-three years in Texas, most of which I’ve spent thinking through my pencil, and making things. It was in my bedroom in Paris, Texas, as a small child that I dreamed of becoming a professional artist. I wanted to paint images for movie posters, write and draw comics, and at one point, even design my own video games. As I got older however, the one thing that never changed through all of these phases was the desire to be continuously drawing, painting images, and elaborating on my imagination.”
When reflecting upon his relationship with Texas, the artist says “I grew up hearing that everything is bigger in Texas. At the time, that saying meant nothing to me, because I had no frame of reference to compare it to. However after living in Philadelphia for several years and establishing my art career in New York, I quickly began to appreciate the space I was afforded in my formative years in Texas. I took for granted that the art scene in Texas was so varied, offering up amazing museums, cutting edge contemporary galleries, community oriented non-profits, and visionary art environments. There is a sense that art is a necessity and is part of the Texan landscape, which in itself seems like a living mythical installation. I grew up with Bible stories, horror stories, used car jingles, cicada songs, and other Texan tall tales. All of which significantly informed me as I went on to spread the word of the Mound across the world, but I always returned home to Texas, the place that gives me the space to be me. It’s really great to be honored by Art League Houston for my contributions to the Texas art scene. Reciprocally speaking, it’s really humbling to know that I might be considered an important component in Texas’s artistic identity too.”
At the center of Hancock’s storytelling is an imaginative and epic narrative about fictional creatures called The Mounds, which populate his fantastical landscape. Half-animal and half-plant, these mythical meat-eating creatures symbolize the earth. They are “a pin cushion for all of humanity and we take all of our troubles and we place it onto this beast,” says the artist. The Mounds are often hunted and tortured by the color-blind “vegans,” who are goblin-like creatures that live under the earth. Another re-occurring character includes the unheroic super hero Torpedo Boy, an alter ego that Hancock created as a child. Torpedo Boy has super human strength and tries to protect the Mounds, but his human emotions, particularly his pride, prevent him from performing his heroic duties. Additional characters that appear in the work alongside him include Junior Mound, Bringback, Baby Curt, and Shy Jerry.”
Hancock transforms traditionally formal decisions—such as his use of color, language, and pattern—into opportunities to create new characters, develop sub-plots, and convey symbolic meaning. Hancock’s works are suffused with personal mythology presented at an operatic scale, often reinterpreting Biblical stories that the artist learned as a child from his family and local church community. His exuberant and subversive narratives employ a variety of cultural tropes, ranging in tone from comic-strip superhero battles to medieval morality plays and influenced in style by Hieronymus Bosch, Max Ernst, Henry Darger, Philip Guston, and R. Crumb. The text embedded within the paintings and drawings both drives the narrative and acts as a central visual component. The resulting sprawling installations spill onto beyond the canvas edges and onto gallery walls.
As a whole, Hancock’s highly developed cast of characters act out a complex mythological battle, creating an elaborate cosmology that embodies his unique aesthetic ideals, musings on color, language, emotions and ultimately, good versus evil. Hancock’s mythology has also been translated through performance, even onto the stage in an original ballet, Cult of Color: Call to Color, commissioned by Ballet Austin (2008, 2013), and through site-specific murals for the Welcome Center at the University of Houston, TX (2015), Houston Children’s Hospital, TX (2011), Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2010), Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX (2009), and a permanent multimedia installation as part of the centennial celebrations at Hermann Park in Houston, TX (2012).
Special thanks to the lenders of the exhibition: Lisa and Charles Brown, James Cohan, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Stephanie Harmon, Leigh and Reggie Smith and Denise and Chris Stewart. Major funding for the Texas Artist of the Year catalog was provided by The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation. Further funding and support has been generously provided by James Cohan, New York; Hales Gallery, London and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.
About Trenton Doyle Hancock
Trenton Doyle Hancock was born in 1974 in Oklahoma City, OK. Raised in Paris, Texas, Hancock earned his BFA from Texas A&M University, Commerce in 1997 and his MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia in 2000. During undergrad, the artist worked as a cartoonist at his school newspaper and was at the time, considering a professional career in cartoons. “If painting didn’t work out, then I wanted to do cartoons,” says Hancock. “I had a whole portfolio ready to do newspapers and things, but painting took precedence. But eventually the cartoons came back.”
Hancock was featured in the 2000 and 2002 Whitney Biennial exhibitions, at the time, becoming one of the youngest artists in history to participate in this prestigious survey. In 2014, his exhibition, Skin & Bones: 20 Years of Drawing, at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston traveled to Akron Art Museum, OH; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; and Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, VA. His work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at The Public Trust, Dallas TX (2016), The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota (2015), Museum of Contemporary Art, Indianapolis, IN (2014), Columbus School of Art and Design, Columbus, OH (2013), Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE (2011), The University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa (2010), The Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah and Atlanta (2010), The Weatherspoon Museum, Greensboro (2010), Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2010), Institute for Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (2008), The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2007); and Museum
Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2007), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (2003), to Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL (2003), Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX (2001) and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2001).
Hancock’s work is represented in museums and private collections worldwide, including: Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, California College of Arts, San Francisco, CA, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, NY, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, Eileen Harris Norton, Santa Monica, CA, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY, Jones Teams Sports, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, TX, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, Fort Worth, TX, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Trento, Italy, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, The Museum of Modern Art, NY, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, New York Public Library, New York, NY, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NB, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, University of Texas at Austin Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, Wichita State University, Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom.
Hancock’s work has also been included in a number of significant group exhibitions, including Juxtapoz x Superflat, curated by Takashi Murakami and Evan Pricco, Pivot Art + Culture, Seattle, WA (2016-17), Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX (2016), When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2014), Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2012), The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art, Kiev International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Armory, Kiev, Ukraine (2012), Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2008), Darger-ism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY (2008), Political Nature, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2005), Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2002), Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2000).
The recipient of numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Fellowship, Joyce Alexander Wein Award, Penny McCall Foundation Award, Artadia Foundation Award, Skowhegan Camille Hanks Cosby Fellowship and more.
Trenton Doyle Hancock lives and works in Houston.
Update: New location
Sewall Hall Gallery (former Rice Art Gallery)
6100 Main St
Houston, TX 77005
Art League Houston
1953 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77006
(located next to Texas Art Supply)