Torpedo Boy: Artist Trenton Doyle Hancock regresses to childhood and comments on vegans

Trenton Doyle Hancock, whose works are now showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art, invented an alter ego in the fifth grade named Torpedo Boy and his imagination created universes and characters that have endured through his art, landing him in the Whitney’s Biennial exhibition in NY as the one of the youngest artists ever.

The hero, Torpedo Boy, adorned with a yellow jumpsuit and a bright orange “T” on front, finds mischief and saves the day from the evil extremists, the Vegans. Hancock’s drawings tell the story chronologically of the hero stealing all of the tofu from the Vegans and his rendezvous with a charming prostitute named Trudi Flooso. The narrative told through words the artist rendered on the wall around the specific scenes make the work as engaging and thoughtful as the characters are surreal and magical.

This exhibition is the first in a series at MOCA entitled, Tall Tales, which focuses on the use of narrative as a structural component in art. A story may bring a series of artworks to life, making the viewer an active ingredient in the art and each one is told a different way as the audience brings its own set of biases, stigmas, and conventions to the interpretation. This provides for more varied experience in communication between the artists and the audience. For thousands of years, humans have defined reality through linear cyclical stories that have a beginning and end just as we have a birth and death. Artists who employ stories within their work give the audience a rich experience by taking us out of day-to-day context and into a whole other dimension of existence that is not bounded by our rules and classifications.

Hancock gives off an aura of folk art in his work even though he does have art school training. He rejects the idea of art for the chosen elite by providing language as a play-by-play for the unfolding drama. He references the malleability of language itself through acronyms and designs embedded with words and letters. What is vital to this artist is the continuous cyclic nature of opposing forces such as antagonist/protagonist, good/evil, danger/safety, or fundamentalism/relativism.

The theme of his installment is the practical and conceptual jumping off point for two wall murals painted on-site at the museum, a giant collage of found objects that were deposited on the artist’s studio floor, and a series of drawings that tell the latest story of Torpedo Boy.

Hancock can draw a story out of any object he finds and the remains on his studio floor are not disposable-they are each small pieces of a grand narrative that began around the fifth grade.

It Came from Studio Floor runs at MoCA, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami, through June 8. Call 305-893-6211.

Alex Saleeby can be reached at