Hancock's work examines dualities of light and dark, or good and evil, through a surreal narrative tracing the activities of two opposing groups, the Mounds and the Vegans. Here Sesom, a Vegan, has a dream that shows him how to bring color into the Vegans' black and white world.
Gallery label from Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities, July 30–November 10, 2008.
This bizarre, minutely detailed etching comes from the most recent chapter in the strange, epic narrative that Hancock, an artist based in Houston, Texas, has been developing since childhood. Filtering in sources ranging from comic books to the Bible (his stepfather was a Baptist minister) to the satirical work of artists James Ensor and Philip Guston, Hancock's paintings, drawings, and prints depict an alternate, visionary universe populated by hybrid creatures, such as the skeletal "Vegan" seen here, at left.
This etching is from a portfolio that concerns the character Sesom (Moses spelled backwards), described by Hancock as a "freethinking Vegan minister," who lives with his fellow Vegans in a stark subterranean world. In Hancock’s narrative the Vegans have lost the ability to see color from "many years of inbreeding." But Sesom has a dream in which he discovers color’s liberating power, and as a result he begins making miracle machines that generate life-affirming color blasts, represented here by the rainbowlike spectrum emanating from the construction of bones to the right. It is Sesom’s mission to lead his people away from their isolated, monochromatic world to one filled with color, energy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. All of this parallels the reintroduction in Hancock’s own work of vivid, psychedelic color (he had previously limited his palette to black, white, and Pepto-Bismol pink).
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 264.