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We Done All We Could and None of It’s Good: Trenton Doyle Hancock at the Weatherspoon Art Museum

Mar 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Feature

Trenton Doyle Hancock

My husband, Budd, and I are frequent visitors to The Weatherspoon Art Museum as well as members. It’s a place we often call our second home. We both share an interest in comic, horror, boundary-pushing art as well as Surrealism, so when we heard about the Trenton Doyle Hancock exhibition and saw a few photos, we knew we had to not only see it, but hear and meet the artist.

The Artist Lecture and Preview Party on February 3 was completely sold out. Budd and I wondered how many WAM members might really appreciate this kind of unusual art, but we know The Weatherspoon is never reluctant to bring non-traditional exhibitions and artists to Greensboro.

We arrived early to get a good seat up front. When Hancock was introduced, we saw a very unassuming, young artist dress
ed in what appeared to be a running suit and an Ascot cap. Hancock was extremely soft-spoken and seemed quite shy. He had a large number of slides to show which told a narrative that he had created in his head of a myth involving “Vegans” based on some of his friends who were vegan. He joked a little about how bad tofu tasted. As he showed his myriad of slides, it was clear that this narrative was incredibly well developed, almost a little too developed as to appear a borderline obsession.

His work, which incorporates comic, surrealism, visionary art, Abstract Expressionism, is varied but also similar in tone. Lots of pink. Lots of bloodshot eyes. Lots of teardrop shapes. The Weatherspoon even allowed him to install a painting of words on the white walls of the Bob and Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery in stark black paint of abstract phrases with “We Done All We Could and None Of It’s Good” repeated numerous times.

Trenton Doyle Hancock

“Miracle Machine #94 or Bouquet Decay Today”

One of the most interesting points of his talk was when an audience member asked him what he did to relax. Hancock said, “I go to thrift stores.” He went on to say that his hometown of Houston, Texas, has some of the best thrift stores in the United States and he uses his finds in his artwork. He even uses some of his very personal possessions such as his own recycled Odor-Eater shoe inserts in his work. In some pieces, they are cut up into shapes; in others, left intact and glued onto the canvas.

After the Artist Lecture, we attended the Preview Party, and it was very difficult to appreciate Hancock’s work due to the size of the crowd. Our favorite guard Marsha begged us to come back another day and see it without a crowd of people; we did and were glad for it. I took the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with Mr. Hancock during the Preview Party as we munched on his favorite foods of Vietnamese sandwiches and doughnut holes from Donut World, all made into a sculpture for the reception. He was, again, very shy and said few words, and simply thanked me for complimenting his work.

Trenton Doyle HancockBudd and I revisited the exhibit this weekend, and I was particularly struck by the “chicken fat,” as Budd called it – the tiny details in the art – little shapes and characters that can’t be appreciated from a distance, but require a second and third look, as well as time to simply stare at it and take it all in. Some works are very small, such as the titular drawing used on The Weatherspoon’s newsletter, while others are massive in scale. Most are paintings, drawings or collage, with the exception of the one sculpture piece called “Color Coffin” which is constructed of drawers in the shape of a coffin, sectioned off to include plastic bottle caps and lids divided by color. It’s quite striking and the guards at the Weatherspoon had to be on their toes to make sure people didn’t touch it. Hancock makes fine use of found objects in this sculpture.

While Hancock’s work is very visionary, he is no outsider artist. He holds an MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, and his work has been represented at such prestigious museums as The Whitney and The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Many pieces seem very autobiographical, representing drawings of an overweight African-American male, and he said as much in his lecture. Whether or not he is comfortable in his own skin, he certainly is comfortable in his very compelling artistic vision. Hancock’s exhibit is definitely worth a visit to The Weatherspoon.

Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “We Done All We Could and None Of It’s Good” is on display at The Weatherspoon Art Museum through April 8.

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