Curated by Terry Allen
October 18 – December 1, 2007
Born on the flatlands in Lubbock, TX, July 12, 1945, Butch Hancock now wonders, "What would have happened to me if I had not encountered the guitar, the camera, and the ball-point pen?" These tools have served him well ("So far," he says) in his explorations as an artist.
After an extended bout with architecture school at Texas Tech University (1963-1971), he continued his amazing ball-point pen drawings of curved and curious architecture (begun in 1969), and pursued music and songwriting…first, as a founding member of the legendary Flatlanders (with Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore), and, to the present day, as a world traveling troubadour-songwriter with a long string of recorded songs and albums. He has continued to draw and photograph for forty years and more, and has amassed an impressive body of work.
In 1969 and '70, he worked for Jeremiah O. Bragstad, architectural photographer, on the West Coast. "That was actually the last full-time employment I had," Mr. Hancock insists. Self-employed, since, he remains an independent in many respects-he has his own record companies (Rainlight since 1976, and Two Roads since 2006)-he has shown a penchant for live recordings, and has toured mostly as a solo act, carrying cameras on all his tours and travels from Alaska to Mexico to Russia to Australia to "all over Europe" to Hong Kong and Kathmandu, to mention a few.
In 1978-80, Mr. Hancock designed and remodeled a train station near Seguin, Texas, the home of the world's largest pecan. In 1983, with George Howard, he co-founded Artist Seven Studio in Austin, and for five years co-produced over 150 video tapings of Texas musicians ("Dixie's Bar and Bus Stop," cable-cast in Texas 1984-86).
His artwork and photography have been exhibited mostly in Texas, in museums, galleries, restaurants and honky tonks, not the least of which was the Texas State Capitol Rotunda (1978).
And, in 1990, he rented and remodeled a first floor loft space in downtown Austin, named it Lubbock-or-Leave-It, and headquartered there for six years. It became a store, gallery, tape-dupe operation, photo studio and darkroom, and miscellaneous performance space that presented a wide range of Texas artists and performers and exhibitions.
Also in 1990, Mr. Hancock and more than two dozen musician friends played six straight nights of live performance in Austin's famed Cactus Café, recording 140 of his original songs with no repetitions. He released the staggering output later in the year as the No Two Alike Tape of the Month club.
1997 brought the birth of Rory, Mr. Hancock's son, and the family moved to Terlingua, Texas, to live and, as Mr. Hancock allows," to find better parking places."
Before leaving Austin, however, Mr. Hancock found time to entertain the Former Governor of the State of Texas, at a Christmas supper in the Governor's Mansion. During the evening meal the Former Governor of the State of Texas commented "I must say I certainly envy your lifestyle." Although that particular Former Governor of the State of Texas later assumed a paid position in The White House, Mr. Hancock admits that, "With all that has transpired since that night, I have more and more trouble believing that he meant a word of that at the time. But…you know, I bet it just might be true if he said it today."
In Terlingua, for the last few years, besides hosting music/camping/rafting trips on rivers from Terlingua to Taos, and Veracruz to Arizona and Colorado, Mr. Hancock has been building, almost single-handedly, a strange, rambling, solar-powered experiment of a Chihuahuan Desert residence. From 2002 to mid-2004, he toured nationally with The Flatlanders and two new Flatlander CDs, with appearances on Don Imus and David Letterman shows. From 2004 to 2006, he worked steadily on more ball-point drawings, turning out over 95 finished pieces in a single sketchbook.
Last year, Mr. Hancock wrote, recorded, produced and played most every instrument on War and Peace, his most recent CD. In late November, he will host yet another Music-on- the-River rafting trip through Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande.
The CUE Art Foundation, with artist Terry Allen as curator, presents the most extensive exhibit of Mr. Hancock's drawings since 1978, with an overview of his photography spanning four decades.
Terry Allen is a visual artist and songwriter who was raised in Lubbock, TX. He has received numerous awards and honors including Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, Bessie (New York) and Isadora Duncan (San Francisco) Awards for text, music, sets, costumes for Pedal Steal (Margaret Jenkins Dance Co.) and recent induction into the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame, Lubbock, TX. His work has been shown throughout the United States and Europe, and is represented in major private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles. His numerous public commissions can be found in such places as L.A.'s Citicorp Plaza, San Francisco's The Moscone Center, The Stuart Collection at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA and Denver, Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth Intercontinental airports.
He has written for and worked in both radio and theater. Some of his selected staged works include,Juarez, The Embrace...Advanced to Fury, and Anti-Rabbit Bleeder, which he wrote and directed; Pioneer, set design, co-written with Jo Harvey Allen & Rinde Eckert, directed by Robert Woodruff, Paul Dresher Production, performed throughout the USA; Leon and Lena (and Lenz), composer, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN; Chippy: Diaries of a West Texas Hooker, set and costume co-written with Jo Harvey Allen, music co-written with Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, directed by Evan Yio-noulis, co-produced by American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia, PA & Lincoln Center's Serious Fun! series, New York. Allen has recorded eleven albums of original songs, including classics Juarez(reissued, Sugar Hill Records, 2004) and Lubbock (on everything), and the most recent Americana Masters Series: Terry Allen, Sugar Hill and CD re-issue of his soundtrack for the 1986 German film,Amerasia on Sugar Hill. Allen's songs have been recorded by such diverse artists as Bobby Bare, Little Feat, Robert Earl Keen, David Byrne, Ricky Nelson, Virgil Shaw and Lucinda Williams. He had written numerous songs for film and theater, including the music soundtrack for Jane Anderson's recent Showtime Emmy nominated The Baby Dance and had currently completed a multi-media trilogy titledDugout, which was shown in its entirety in Los Angeles, Feb-May 2004. He has been described by critic Dave Hickey in the Los Angeles Times as a "renaissance man…renowned for his effortless command and outrageous combination of disparate genres and media, according to the task at hand." His visual work is available at L.A. Louver Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA and Moody Gallery, Houston, TX. Terry Allen lives and works in Santa Fe, NM, with his wife, actress and writer, Jo Harvey Allen.
A traveling musician is blessed and cursed with miles and miles of travel between concerts. I have carried cameras and sketchbooks on every tour. The results are simply visual notes and split-second openings into the fleeting conditions that produce fleeting appearances.
Photographs and drawings and writings variously effect, affect, reflect, amplify, distort, record and erase the selected and extended moments of those appearances. They mess with time and are trapped in time.
Perhaps, as their saving grace, they give us all a chance to step out of our own time and out of our own traps.
Art leads you nowhere but within.
P.S. Technical note: Nikon, Leica, Hasselblad, Graflex, Bic medium ball-point.
by Terry Allen
Butch and I were sitting and talking in a pub in London. We'd been off in different directions play-ing music around England and both had about two weeks to go. Chernobyl had just happened and we were wondering if the "commie cloud" was coming our way. We weren't particularly concerned because we'd both grown up in West Texas in the 50s chasing DDT trucks down alleys on our bikes. With that in our blood, and playing music in clubs, toxic was normal. While talking, Butch was also drawing in a cheap little red & black Chinese notebook with a bic ballpoint. I asked him about the book and he handed it over. That was my first look at the Butch Hancock who makes a whole lot more wonders than just great songs.
When CUE asked me to invite an artist I admired to do a show, I immediately thought of Butch. 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. Hopefully, this exhibition will offer a good opportunity for a new and wider audience to get at least a glimpse of that…. Photographs, film, video, outlandish architectural propositions, elaborate ballpoint drawings, handmade journals filled with writings, sketches and scrawls, etc…. and always, the songs.
In the 80s and 90s, Butch had a space he called Lubbock or Leave it. It was in a big warehouse in the downtown heart of Austin. It was his private studio and open to the public … a music venue, theater, art gallery, movie theater, recording studio, bookstore, record store, and he slept in the back. Wide open, it was a central gathering spot for all manner of artists, musicians, and writers from across the world. Many extraordinary things were made and happened in that place.
Now Butch lives with Adrienne and their three kids, Helena, Katy and Rory, in an endless monumental structure he's designing and building by hand as he goes. It is on the desert flats outside of Terlingua, TX, near the Rio Grande and on the edge of Big Bend National Park. What he's creating there defies description. Like Butch himself … and the many profound pleasures to be had in experiencing the wide range of his works.
YOUNG ART CRITICS: Caitlin Haskell on Butch Hancock