Nobody cares about an artist’s personal troubles unless the artist makes them care. With Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work, I begin to care in late 1999, and care a lot by 2001.
Hancock’s 1997 works are adept at using a vocabulary of expressionist paint slathers, pop-art collage appropriation, and pseudo-folky lettering and imagery. A substantial slice of the show, “97 works like Baffoon, Then I Saw Her Face, Now I’m a Bebeaver, Big Tooth, Longer Reach, I Hugged an Aquatic Icey Creature, Skum, Pure N, and Coonbear have the settled, slightly assembly-line professionalism of a young artist slapped with sudden success. Competent, beautiful, slightly impersonal, these are the works a lesser artist would have settled for, cranking them out until doomsday.
Hancock’s newer works get better and better. More personal, more complex, and less expectable, they depart from safe formulas to include an omnivorous assortment of techniques: collaged packaging and plastic bottle tops in Feronious and the Monk, cut and pasted canvas, impasto paint dollops, intricate cartoon-style drawing, plastic baggies, carpet fuzz ad infinitum. they’re also more heavily worked over: black and white pieces like Remembor With Membry and Friends Indeed are insanely labor intensive, vividly evoking a sweaty-palmed psychic intensity bordering on frenzy.
For Hancock, messy collage is a metaphor for an untidy psyche, literally torn and pasted together again, oozing like a poorly healed wound. Painter and Loid Struggle for Soul Control explicates the psychological conflict most clearly. It is a battle on canvas, violent, complex and confusing, threatening to destroy the fabric of the painting itself, with the sides neatly color coded.
Even Torpedoboy Tries His Darndest to Stop an Oozing Moundment looks better than it did in the 2001 Core Exhibition. It seems smaller and denser, more frenetic and intense without the wall painting behind it.
All images courtesy the artist and CAM.
Bill Davenport is an artist and writer and was one of the first contributors to Glasstire.