LOS ANGELES, CA.- Shulamit Nazarian
is presenting Good Grief, Bad Grief, a solo exhibition by the Houston-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock. This is the artists second solo exhibition with the gallery, on view from September 17 through October 29.
Exploring a mythology that spans over twenty-five years, Hancock has created a cast of characters, a lexicon of symbols, and an evolving, non-linear narrative of epic proportion. Storytelling is at the root of the artists practice, drawing equally from the world of comics, film, art history, and religion. Engaging with a seemingly inexhaustible range of cultural influences and references, the artist has built a singular voice of legendary status. Through a practice of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and performance, he has established himself as an esteemed world-builder. Fantastical in nature, Hancocks expansive narratives provide an entry point to examine many significant cultural issues, such as race, class, identity, politics, and power, all of which continue to shape the identity and legacy of America.
Good Grief, Bad Grief unites many of Hancocks core characters: Torpedo Boy, a tragically flawed superhero that serves as the artists alter ego; the debaucherous and destructive bony Vegans; and Hancock, a depiction of the artist himself. These characters defy the traditional roles of hero and villain that weve come to expect from so many prominent myth narratives. Such polarities meld in Hancocks Moundverse as we find his characters hold a far more complicated existence, one that oscillates between good and evil, often occupying both positions simultaneously. As a reflection of the artist, these characters grow and change overtime, modified by Hancocks own lived experiences, emotions, and thoughts.
Central to this exhibition is a new group of paintings that build upon Hancocks celebrated series Step and Screw, which portrays Torpedo Boy exchanging an object with a member of the Klu Klux Klanmodeled in the likeness of Philip Gustons buffoonish klansman character. The framework of Step and Screw allows Hancock to merge the deeply problematic cultural and racial history of America with that of his own history as a painter. Throughout the exhibition, we see vignettes of Torpedo Boy slowly morphing into a klansman, conflating and complicating the roles of these two iconic figures. Step and Screw: Seven Foot Furry Face Off borrows from the compositional structure of the Step and Screw series, but positions Hancock, as the artist, in a face-off with Torpedo boy, the superheroboth figures serving as alternate versions of the same person. What is being exchanged in this painting is the Klansmans hood. This work becomes an entry point to several other paintings in the exhibition, each showing Torpedo Boy and Hancock engaged in a physical struggle. In these new works, Torpedo Boy has clearly shifted from hero to villain as he attacks Hancock, while the artist is rendered gripping a past artwork. Richly metaphysical in nature, this new series depicts Hancock wrestling with ideas of self, the meaning of his own artwork, and the notion that to be valued by society while also Black, one must always demonstrate a certain level of excellence. As Hancock has previously stated, We will know that racism has ended in this country when it is ok for a Black person to simply be mundane, a privilege that is so often afforded to others.
Exhibited throughout Good Grief, Bad Grief is a series of intimate self-portraits that make evident the artists ability to deftly utilize a range of styles, mark making, and color theory to achieve a profoundly psychological image. These works reflect Hancocks own emotions and state of mind, with portraits that show him in a range of positions: head in hand, gazing defiantly at the viewer, cautiously peering over his shoulder, or rendered in grotesque form with his eyes cartoonishly popping out of his glasses. Each intimately scaled portrait provides punctuation within the exhibition, while offering a deeper insight into Hancocks personal psyche.
Struggle and transformation are ideas that are extended throughout the exhibition. In several works, including the monumental painting titled The Skint Alterpiece: Vegans Make Deposits at the Tofu Bank, we find elaborate Vegan cities that are populated with Hancocks nefarious subjects engaging in debauchery with a level of density and detail that is reminiscent of sixteenth-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. These sprawling and intricate cityscapes show the Vegans at the height of their civilization, extracting and processing their natural resources in large factories to create tofu. These Vegan cities and suburbs provide a grand space for Hancock to enact various narratives, struggles, and sub-plots on a single work of art.
The exhibition also includes Chapter 2 of Hancocks impressive graphic novel that will ultimately exist as a four-volume book consisting of nearly 1000 original drawings. This chapter, titled Veganism, is a follow up to Trenton Doyle Hancock Presents The Moundverse, Chapter 1: What is a Mound?, which debuted in his 2018 exhibition at the gallery, and introduced the seminal character of the Mound. Rendered in pen and ink on paper, the artist has brought to life a linear story of the Vegans, portraying a fraught relationship between Hancock, Torpedo Boy, Vegans, and the police. The conflict between these various characters serves as a metaphor for extremism and idealism, power and transformation, and the evolving structures of white supremacy within America. Exhibited in a large grid, Hancock takes viewers on a sequential journey through this absurdist world, one drawing at a time, culminating in a deeper understanding of the relationships between the artists own life and the fictional worlds that he builds.
Collectively, Good Grief, Bad Grief builds on Hancocks ever-expanding iconography, while uniting several individual bodies of work. While idiosyncratic in nature, these works also speak defiantly to many of our nations deepest and darkest histories, shining a light on good and evil, and the grey in between.
Trenton Doyle Hancock (b. 1974, Oklahoma City, OK; Lives and works in Houston, TX) grew up in Paris, Texas. He received his MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia and his BFA from Texas A&M University in Commerce, Texas. Hancock was featured in the 2000 and 2002 Whitney Biennial exhibitions, becoming one of the youngest artists in history to participate in this prestigious survey. In 2014, his exhibition Skin & Bones: 20 Years of Drawing was presented at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, and traveled to Akron Art Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. His work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at The Ringling Museum of Art; The University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum; The Savannah College of Art and Design; The Weatherspoon Museum; The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Institute for Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania; Olympic Sculpture Park at the Seattle Art Museum; Fruitmarket Gallery; and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Hancocks world has been translated into performance in the original ballet Cult of Color: Call to Color, commissioned by Ballet Austin; and through site-specific murals for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and at the Seattle Art Museums Olympic Sculpture Park. In 2019, the artist presented his most comprehensive exhibition to date, Mind of the Mound: Critical Mass, at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.
The artists work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; The Studio Museum in Harlem; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; Dallas Museum of Art; High Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art; The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Trento, Italy; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Warhol Museum; and Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University.