Volume 20, Number 32 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 21 - 27, 2007

"Support businesses and organizations that support Downtown Express"

Courtesy Sunday L.E.S.

Michael Krueger, “Night Signs,” 2007

The unbuilt, thought-filled environment

Michael Krueger
“Peace in the Valley”
Through January 6, 2008
237 Eldridge Street, South Storefront

By Stephanie Buhmann

During a time when most galleries in Chelsea and Uptown prepare to close for the holidays, Sunday L.E.S., located at 237 Eldridge Street, has opened one more solo exhibition. Founded by artist and curator Clayton Sean Horton in 2006, Sunday L.E.S. is one example of several new as well as established galleries that have recently opened spaces in the Lower East Side, including Lehmann Maupin, Salon 94 Freemans and Envoy. For the past few months, this part of town has been rumored to become Manhattan’s next major art center. This speculation is largely based on the New Museum’s anticipated move to the Bowery earlier this month and the general suspicion that Chelsea has become too saturated with galleries. Together, both aspects seem promising enough to draw more serious art aficionados Downtown in the near future.

Sunday L.E.S. has settled on a quiet block just below Houston. At first glance its exhibition space resembles a storefront. Its large glass windows are facing the street and a bike shop is next door. Compared to most Chelsea ground-floor galleries, Sunday L.E.S. is refreshingly humble and offers its visitors an intimate viewing experience. As their online statement points out, Sunday L.E.S. aims to support “the burgeoning art scene of the neighborhood” and to provide “a more fitting context for emerging artists and those who may have been overlooked by the marketplace.”

Their late December exhibition features new works by Michael Krueger. It is the first New York solo exhibition for this artist, who was born in Wisconsin in 1967, lives in Lawrence, KS and currently teaches at the University of Kansas. While Krueger works in various media, including photography and printmaking, “Peace in the Valley” focuses on a concise selection of new colored pencil drawings. In these works, Krueger’s use of line is determined, crisp and exhibits an affinity for detailed rendering. Sourcing American history and culture, Krueger has created a series of desolate landscapes that are populated by signs that bear political, socio-critical and sensationalist slogans, such as ”War is Racist,” “It’s only Rock n’ Roll,” or “God Hates You.” As assemblages of past and present mottos, they establish an equally strange and compelling voice for human thought. Here, worldly concerns of the past and present have been boiled down to illustrative phrases.

To stress the otherworldly quality of these landscapes, Krueger adds vibrant skyscapes made of thick color bands, which are reminiscent of 1960s Psychedelic art. At times, figures or animals enter these landscapes as silent (if not puzzled) bystanders to the conglomerate of ideas beside them. As passive witnesses they seem to re-enforce the question of what has or has not been achieved over time. By forcing ideas from various parts of history together in one landscape, Krueger’s works point at the riches of history, but also at the senselessness and idiocy inherent in empty phrases. A peace sign stuck in a desert landscape that is devoid of any human presence or aggression is still iconic, but also detached from its necessary context. It reminds me of the hypothetical question: What if there was a war and no one would go?

This is a fine and thought-provoking exhibit, coming at a time when especially in this country the new year will bring many political changes. There might be peace in the valley, but the wars caused by human idealism, passion and stupidity continue to forge on.

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