Heavily driven by an ongoing fascination with pop culture, Dave Krueger’s maximalist aesthetic is defined by dense systems of geometric shapes and asymmetrical grids. Between fantastical narrative passages, the surface is populated with symbols, numbers, occasional text fragments, and numerous decorative patterns comprised of diamonds, asterisks, zigzags, circles, crosses, and X’s. Drawing upon influences that span movies, comic books, 8-bit arcade games, and weather phenomena, these works emit an electric hum of activity. Recurring motifs include radiant suns with cartoonish visages, angular birds resembling origami cranes, monstrous reptiles, and mysterious bodies of water.
Every painting is informed by an elaborate, living narrative, which shifts over time or with each animated telling:
I made that with my own two hands and my fingers are twinkling and my fingers say yes and my fingers know how to talk. I’m still working on it. This painting I made is Return of the Jedi and the Jedi Master. The master is the head boss of Darth Vader. He was Luke Skywalker’s father. I’m not evil like Darth Vader. I want to see what Darth Vader really looks like under his mask. I think he looks hideous, he’s all flesh and bones. I want to make sure he turns into bionics.
When asked about his background, Krueger offers without hesitation, “I’ve made art all my life. My mother used to be an artist - she taught me.” Born in 1962, he has maintained a creative practice at the Arts of Life’s Chicago studio since 2007, five days a week. While painting, he enjoys cracking jokes and actively conversing with those in his vicinity throughout the day. Always aware of what other artists are working on, he often saves skins of dried acrylic peeled from his paint containers for Hubert Posey, who then incorporates these remnants into his own sculptures.
Dedicated and prolific, Krueger also draws everyday at home while watching tv or reading newspapers and magazines. His sketchbooks reveal the foundation of a singular visual sensibility, as well as an innate ability to devise sophisticated compositions from memory. He initially lays out ideas quickly in graphite, then traces these lines in bold black sharpie. When these preliminary drawings densely fill an entire sketchbook, he revisits each page and adds color in an array of vibrant markers.
When comparing his drawings to both small and large-scale paintings, the particular way Krueger activates the surface begins to reveal itself. Small paintings demonstrate the priority of process, covered primarily with decorative marks that become obscured under subsequent layers. When a canvas is large enough to accommodate it, discernible imagery is much more prevalent.
Even in large-scale works, all-over compositions evenly saturate the picture plane and continue onto its edges. Almost every inch appears to be divided into registers by distinct acrylic lines, with little deviation between line weight and adjacent open squares. These gaps are used sparingly and thoughtfully among flattened imagery, becoming windows through which to catch glimpses of alternate realities - a blue pattern might appear over a horizon line, transforming the background into an expanse of sky.
Over decades, Krueger has developed a confident command of his well-established artistic priorities, while channelling his active visual intuition through a tempered approach to painting. When observing his extensive yet cohesive body of work in its entirety, this invented logic becomes clearly recognizable. As in many of his works, Starring Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf renders interiors and exteriors, as well as events occurring across the movie’s timeline, simultaneously visible. He employs a reductive architectural language redolent of Edie Fake’s abstracted neon nightclub facades, although much less concerned with control or finesse. Krueger embraces chance and spontaneity throughout his creative process. His improvisational methods ultimately lead to strikingly unexpected color combinations and marks that are undeniably (even unabashedly) hand-made.
Krueger’s titles often indicate one or more movies that have captured his attention - especially pulling from Horror, Sci-fi, Action and Adventure genres - and at times reflect his dark sense of humor. The connection of phrases such as Cyborg Mary or Finding Nemo and the Gates of Hell to corresponding imagery is both specific and nebulous, engaging the viewer in a perpetual guessing game.
Dave Krueger has exhibited previously in Slow Read co-curated by Disparate Minds co-founders Andreana Donahue and Tim Ortiz, All Well and Good curated by Eric Ruschman, and Truer Lives curated by Nick Jackson at Circle Contemporary, as well as In Good Company at the Chicago Cultural Center. For several years Krueger has also produced collaborative paintings and comics with Chicago-based artist Ben Marcus, including Love Man & Other Tales and Love Man Returns.
Follow Dave on Instagram @davidraykrueger.