For decades, Hancock has been telling the story of the Mounds (gentle hybrid plant-like creatures) protected by Torpedo Boy (Hancock’s alter ego), and their enemies, the Vegans (mutants who consume tofu and spill Mound blood every chance they get). In paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, video and installation, the artist explores good and evil, authority, race and class, moral relativism, politics and religion.
This is not our first encounter with Trenton Doyle Hancock. He was among artists that curator Valerie Cassel Oliver selected for Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. The exhibition premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Houston, and traveled across the United States. In Radical Presence, Cassel Oliver surveyed seminal black performance art. She invited artists into the exhibition to re-stage their performances.
In 2013, we make our way to Houston to watch Hancock embody one of the characters in the narrative he began creating when he was 10 years old. For an evening performance titled “Devotion,” he becomes a singing Mound. He’s massive. He’s blindfolded. Cassel Oliver feeds him jello. The spectacle is intimate, absurd and deeply spiritual.
The next morning. We meet Trenton Doyle Hancock in his studio warehouse to wander through his mind. Inside a warehouse awash in accumulating materials—cast-off toys, books and bottle caps, scraps of felt and fabric, and cans of paint, we talk about the histories, objects and ideas that inform his work. It seems likely that this artist will never lose the desire to experiment and play with the fantastical characters that animate his inner world.
Sound Editor: 2019 Anamnesis Audio; 2013 Eric Schwartz | Special Audio: Trenton Doyle Hancock | Photos Courtesy Tony Luong, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art