Something American: Trenton Doyle Hancock's Dives Deep Into the Nation's Psyche in New Show
“The more you dissect the image, the more it becomes fraught with historic tension and with my own history as a painter. It keeps feeding itself as an image. The item that is exchanged between them changes the narrative each time.” Trenton Doyle Hancock, a Juxtapoz cover artist in January 2016, is about as American as a painter or fine artist can be. Influenced by superheroes and comic books, he was born and raised in Texas, and while reflecting on his individuality and greater community as an artist, he paints football figures, and makes grand installations and paintings, as well as intimate self-portraits.
What is so profound in Hancock’s newest solo show, Something American, on view at James Cohan in NYC, is that Hancock’s paintings are about this exchange of being a Black American in these United States. Prior to Trump ever coming to office, Hancock fashioned a hooded character that resembled Guston's famed Klan member, often in dialogue or “offering” something to a character that looked like the artist himself. But now, after such a devastating summer of loss and the emergence of a new kind of social revolution, Hancock’s newest paintings of the Klan character seem to be saying to the artist and viewer that “this is your offer” for being Black in America. This is the reality. We offer you chaos and despair. And somehow, seeing Hancock’s character in a football uniform that resembles a superhero costume, faced with the empty Klan gesture, feels like the personal story endured by Black Americans everyday. However, Hancock portrays the strength and reality, telling it with truth and triumph.
That football, superheroes and racist imagery are all blended into these works seem to define what it is to be Some-thing American in 2020. As the gallery notes, “These works contend with American identity and cultural expression, while confronting the ever-evolving, attendant structures of white supremacy. Hancock brings these forces into his fantastical universe in order to grapple with them—this metaphorical space, while it invites parallels to our own, is entirely under the artist’s control. In this exhibition, the artist takes us on a deeply personal journey through the multivalent facets of the self.” A powerful show to kick off the Fall exhibition season. —Evan Pricco