2017 Artist of the Year: Trenton Doyle Hancock Catalog

2017 Artist of the Year: Trenton Doyle Hancock Catalog

from 54.13

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 gray in between.

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.

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