Andy Hope 1930’s art posits a gray area between cultures one would have assumed were incompatible: German 20th-century figurative painting—from Beckmann to Kippenberger to André Butzer, a tradition of soured irony embodied by lumpen, angular mark-making—and the fast-and-loose world of late 20th-century American pop culture. The collision is thematically ubiquitous in Hope’s work, right down to the name the former Andreas Hofer has adopted, and with which he has been signing his paintings for over a decade. Andy Hope is an English bastardization of his original German name, and 1930 his personal dating of the transference of Western cultural authority from Europe to America.
This installation introduced the image and voice of Hope himself as a theatrical embodiment of his assumed persona. Hanging on the ceiling were five digital prints from the “Space Tourist” series (2013), reproducing Hope’s collaging of his own costumed image onto old DC comic book covers. Ridiculously, he sports a German storm trooper’s cap, or a floppy Mad Hatter’s hat. Digital camera in hand, he is the surrogate superhero as absurd tourist, the ragged cutout of his image emphasizing his failure to be assimilated by comic culture’s fantasy world. The looped video Two of You at Once (2013) presents a spinning ring taken from George Pal’s 1960 film of H.G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine. In the story, the ring carried a message imparted only when it was spun. On the soundtrack, Hope intones, “I call myself Andy Hope and I belong to a species which has no name,” his gravelly voice and German-accented English bathetically deflating the preternatural aura of the clip.
In many of the paintings, Hope’s signature has been transposed into the Kryptonian alphabet that can be found in the speech bubbles of Superman comics when a character from Superman’s home planet is speaking. The reference recalls Mike Kelley’s “Kandor” series (1999-2011), in which models of Kandor, the city of Superman’s birth, are encased in bottles. Kelley’s nostalgia for a lost comic-book universe, and, by extension, for his own comic-addled youth, has its equivalent in Hope’s paintings, which do not depict America itself but parody its mythical landscape. Sriffian Sphere (2013) presents the Manhattan skyline in comic-illustration style; while in Impressions d’Amérique (2013) the silhouette of a “man with no name” figure, painted with Impressionist-style brushwork, emerges on horseback from the sunset glow of a brilliant orange ground. In Martian Cubism (2013), a passage of mock cubist faceting doubles as a craggy landscape over which a miasma of scarlet glitter floats, showering a symbol of the early European avant-garde with the dazzle of Warholian pop. Hope’s science-fiction iconography is tinted by a “back to the future” nostalgia as it succumbs to the utopian postures of the early modernism that preceded it.
These symbolic collisions were reflected in the fragmentariness of the installation. Collages encased in Plexiglas leaned, in haphazard rows, on purpose-built shelves. Paintings hung with a pointedly provisional air from architectural columns narrower than the canvases they supported. Some conceits required multiple works to complete: Mr. + Mr. Kent (2013) consisted of two square paintings of chevron shapes, above which two square black paintings (Final Screen 1 + 2, 2013) established a face-off between the Malevich monochrome and Superman’s pop “Suprematicism.” In the far corner of the gallery, a pair of plastic pink flamingos stood atop resin casts of buildings constructed out of white Styrofoam blocks (Razzle-Dazzle 1 & 2, 2013). The plinths resemble 1960s Brutalist architecture, while the flamingos are brightly colored symbols of a mediated postmodern world triumphing over modernism’s old colorless abstractions. The flamingos’ self-vaunting postures echo those of Hope’s “space tourist”—a tragicomic figure caught between callow America and nostalgic “Old Europe,” straddling the two worlds, belonging to neither.