Working across painting, drawing and installation, Trenton Doyle Hancock is known as the creator of 'Moundverse', a part-fictional, part-autobiographical world featuring an array of characters inspired by comics, pulp fiction, and history, and through which he explores the boundaries between good and evil.Read More
Born 1974 in Oklahoma City, United States, Hancock grew up in a religious household, the stepson of a minister and was introduced to rigid world views, the confines of which the artist attempts to break through by creating fictional universes where moral boundaries come under scrutiny.
Hancock studied for a BFA at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where he illustrated cartoons for the university paper, intending to become a cartoonist. Following this he undertook an MFA at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Working across mediums, Trenton Doyle Hancock's artworks tell the story of the 'Mounds' and the 'Vegans', mysterious creatures from a world imagined by the artist, illustrating the battle between good and evil and sociopolitical issues affecting contemporary society.
Trenton Doyle Hancock inspirations include comics, graphic novels, music, and film. Hancock's Mound mythological creatures are half-human, half-plant, and came into being thousands of years ago after a man ejaculated into a field of flowers.
The Mound characters are personified and given names like, 'The Legend', the original Mound, 'Painter', a maternal spirit who overlooks colour, or 'Loid', a paternal energy whose focus is on words—often recovered from motifs from the artist's childhood, or personal experience.
Bald forms wearing perplexed expressions, Hancock's Mounds range from ghost outlines with rounded eyes to detailed depictions as with the collage work The legend is in trouble (2001), in which frantic assortments of smaller Mounds emerge from the entrails of The Legend.
Following comic book conventions, Hancock's auto-fictional universe is often narrated across systematic grids, which organise and convey a large amount of visual information.
The mixed-media on paper and canvas work You're Late (2007), for instance, introduces multiple planes that serve as surfaces to present images and objects within the composition, and incorporates art historical imagery to play with depth and perspective.
Trenton Doyle Hancock's Vegans are said to be malevolent beings and represent those who force their beliefs on others. The artist has said the interpretation of both is left open to avoid reinforcing the strict binaries between good and evil he was taught as a child.
Appearing across drawings, paintings, and installations, Hancock's Vegans are commonly rendered as raised fists and often surround the confounded Mounds, directing or wanting to enlist them to back their dubious causes.
In the installation Vegan Arm (2006), a bucket of pink paint hovers precariously in the air, suspended just off the ground by a string attached to a pale arm that reaches from the wall, as if the artist had followed some strange set of instructions given to him by one of the Vegans.
Revisiting stories of lynchings told during his youth, Hancock's 'Something American' series (2020) depicts encounters between 'Torpedo Boy', the artist's alter ego, rendered as a cartoon superhero character in yellow tights, and KKK Klansmen.
Devoid of text, the comic strips visualising these encounters are imbued with tension, which is mediated through imagery and symbolism, reflecting the complications that come with attempting to articulate or process the experience of Blackness and its history.
Hancock is the recipient of the 2003 Artadia Award, the 2013 Greenfield Prize, the 2017 Texas Artist of the Year Award, and the 2019 Texas Medal of Arts.
The artist is also the youngest artist to have featured in the Whitney Biennial, partaking in two consecutive exhibitions in 2000 and 2002.
Hancock's artworks have been shown widely in America, Europe, Asia, and the U.K.
Select solo exhibitions include Hales Gallery, London (2022); James Cohan Gallery, New York (2020); MASS MoCA, Massachusetts (2019); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Washington (2018); Art League Houston (2017); Seattle Art Museum (2010); and Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2001).
Select group exhibitions include ICA Boston (2022); Texas Biennial (2021); Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort (2020); Whitney Museum, New York (2020); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2019); Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York (2015); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2014); and Institut Néerlandais, Paris (2012).
Trenton Doyle Hancock's Instagram account can be found here.
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022