Curated by Terry Allen
“He’s made his life completely about the making of amazing things. Other than music, only a small group of friends and family really know about this other work….Photographs, film, video, outlandish architectural propositions, elaborate ballpoint drawings, handmade journals filled with writings, sketches and scrawls, etc… and always, the songs.”
Armed with the adage that rules are meant to be broken, Butch Hancock left architecture school at Texas Tech University to pursue many overlapping paths as musician, songwriter, troubadour, builder, planner, architect, artist, photographer, cinematographer, cartoonist and video producer. Throughout his extensive travels, he carried with him journals in which he recorded “the interesting ephemeral moments of life.”
Marking his first exhibition in New York, Hancock’s exhibition at CUE will present a diverse selection of 10 to 15 medium-sized, digitalized drawings installed alongside a vitrine containing the artist’s original travel journals and 10 to 15 black and white photographs, most of which were taken during a span of 40 years largely spent on the road as a touring musician.
Working with black Bic ball-point pen, Hancock’s elaborate drawings of fantastical, futuristic, curvilinear dwellings set in elaborate fertile fields reveal his inner journeys and meditations on the functioning of the universe. Organic shapes and cantilevered structures featured in his drawings reference the works of architect-visionaries including Antonio Gaud’i and Frank Lloyd Wright; while the liquid lyricism of his compositions evoke the Surrealist terrain of artists Salvador Dal’i and Juan Mir’o.
His facility for building two-dimensional forms in black and white derives primarily from his experience working as an architectural photographer in his early 20’s. Developing techniques honed in the darkroom influenced his drawing practice by encouraging him to continue to explore different depths of tonality between deep black and bright white. In recent ink on paper works, such as Flight of Garuda (bic book #41), 2004, Hancock begins by filling in the sky with rich black and gradually works forward, allowing forms to “pop” and define the composition; then carefully balances the amount of pressure applied when guiding his pen over the tooth and texture of the paper in order to achieve an enormous range of tonality and detail.
Drafting techniques are also present in photographs such as Dawg at Leap…Lubbock, Texas, 1970, a picture taken shortly after Hancock began his first series of drawings. Here, the highlighting of contours draw attention to the hyper-extended arc of movement and, coupled with use of subtle tones to achieve greater depth, echoing similar techniques found in his imaginary architecture. Whether it’s capturing the explosive enormity of single kernel of pop corn, or the micro-instant of a dog suspended in flight, Hancock’s sculptural sense of form and deft use of tone throughout the photographs and drawings on view elevates an image beyond the ordinary into a moment, expression, or gesture which pulsates with pictorial clarity and compositional balance. He is able to bring to light the freedom of discovery by revealing the monumentality of suspended time.