PaperCity Magazine

November 2014 - Houston

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W ho's the best artist working in Texas today? Which one has the greatest renown? Ask these two not mutually exclusive questions, and you'll frequently get the same answer: Trenton Doyle Hancock. This Paris, Texas- reared talent — a former MFAH Core Fellow and member of the Whitney Biennial club, as well as a participant in prestigious international exhibitions from Istanbul to London — is known and collected by institutions ranging from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, to the Whitney and MoMA. He can also be found in the personal troves of discerning collectors such as Lester Marks, who jumped on the Hancock bandwagon very early on. Yet even these laurels don't truly convey the essence of Hancock's practice, which was showcased this spring in a 20-year retrospective that filled the upper gallery of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with the artist's ribald, obsessive drawings; dense, comic-inflected masterpieces that dealt with the epic of Torpedo Boy (a stand-in for Hancock himself); and the ongoing wars between the Vegans and the Mounds, an odyssey that also relates to biblical narratives, as well as big issues in WELCOME TO WONDERLAND TOY MUSEUM, ANYONE? CATHERINE D. ANSPON INVESTIGATES A PRIVATE ART DOMAIN, THE RESIDENCE OF A TWO-TIME WHITNEY BIENNIAL HEADLINER AND HIS RISING ART-STAR GIRLFRIEND. PHOTOGRAPHY JACK THOMPSON. AT HOME WITH ARTISTS TRENTON DOYLE HANCOCK AND JOOYOUNG CHOI the American psyche such the Civil Rights movement. JooYoung Choi is Hancock's girlfriend and occasional collaborator. Currently an artist in residence at Lawndale Art Center (with an exhibition scheduled there next May), she interweaves painting, sculpture — particularly puppet-making — and animation into her oeuvre. She and Hancock met in 2010 when Choi was a BFA student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design; he popped into town as the school's visiting artist to deliver a lecture. "We ended up talking about which types of comics we enjoyed reading — Marvel versus DC — and which superheroes we were interested in," she recalls. Their mutual love of cartoons blossomed into a friendship, and after an exchange of letters and a Houston visit, romance bloomed. Hancock coaxed Choi to relocate to Texas — and to move in. We can't imagine a more perfectly matched pair. While Hancock began collecting toys at the age of eight, what Choi calls her own "serious collecting" began in elementary school. "In the fourth grade," she says, "I was introduced to Marvel Universe Series 3 trading cards. Each card featured a Marvel superhero (Wolverine, Psylocke, Storm, Iron Man, etc.). Marvel cards were some of the first images I considered works of art." She also admits to having been enamored of all things Roger Rabbit since the age of seven — "plush, animation production cels, VHS tapes, trading cards, you name it." This influence carries over into her art-making today. PaperCity last profiled Hancock for a May 2013 fashion spread, which featured our picks for the most intriguing and important artists on the Texas stage. While our portrait/interview was done in a studio, we did coax an invite to visit his private toy museum, housed behind his Spring Branch residence. Months later, my 96-year- old dad and I shared a Korean feast with Hancock and Choi and were given a tour of the couple's home and collection. We all connected over two topics: Korea (Choi is a Korean-born adoptee; my dad, a scientist, has been to Korea for research trips; and Hancock's goal is to go there soon, which has just been realized) and plastics. Both artists are devoted collectors of comics-inspired toys from the 1960s onward, which were made from injection-molded plastics — specifically polyethylene and polystyrene, materials that are my dad's area of expertise as a patent holder and inventor. So the night was a hit and a plan was hatched for a return to toy land, as it were, and a promise made to capture it for the pages of PaperCity. Herein, enter a rarely seen realm — casa Hancock and Choi. "I FIRST REALIZED I WAS A COLLECTOR WHEN I SAW A HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE TOY COMMERCIAL IN 1982. I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD." — Trenton Doyle Hancock UP NEXT: Trenton Doyle Hancock's 20-year drawing retrospective, "Skin and Bones," arrives at the Studio Museum, New York (March 26 – June 28, 2015), followed by a solo exhibition for his Greenfield Prize/Hermitage residency at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. For Choi, 2015 brings "C.S. Watson and the Cosmic Womb" opening at Richland College, Dallas (January 20 – February 6), followed by her Lawndale Art Center residency exhibition next May. JooYoung Choi and Trenton Doyle Hancock in their home, which resembles "a giant toy dollhouse," notes Hancock. In the living room, another collection in the works: quirky vintage VHS and self-help audio cassettes. A corner of Choi's studio (Hancock's studio is off property at a separate warehouse). In progress are paintings that reference her background as a Korean adoptee raised in New England. Homage to a classic American childhood: Fisher-Price and Tonka little people. "I became addicted to the textures, colors and stories that went along with the toys," reveals Hancock — who, perhaps not surprisingly, is now creating his own line of plastic toys based upon characters that appear in his paintings. Choi's studio doubles as an animation stage.

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