Jarring history: Virginia's past a la Krueger

I don’t want to go back to high school. No one I know wants to go back to high school. However, this isn’t the case with a few new Peggy Sue Got Married-style shows on the big networks, and also for Michael Krueger, who also seems to think it’s a good idea.
Not just high school in concept, but Krueger’s own high school self looms over his somewhat Virginia-themed exhibit at Second Street, “Everyday Alchemy.” The artist, a University of Kansas professor, unearths his old high school notebooks and uses them as inspiration for his own aesthetic, and then does himself one better as he actually incorporates pages from his notebooks into his work. 
The high school-ization of Krueger’s artwork begins with a series of pencil drawings done in red, blue, and good old gray/black #2 lead pencil. These dioramas certainly look like the work of a daydreaming study hall artist, though drawn with a steadier, trained hand. As with many notebook sketches, there are images of people and vehicles rendered in thick, hard-pressed pencil stroke.
Krueger’s imagination, though, comes tempered with irony and laden with Virginia historical elements. In “Ubiquitous Histories: Washington’s Double,” George Washington appears to be crossing a pond in a motorboat, surrounded by anachronistic elements such as downed telephone poles, a half-buried woolly mammoth, and a fleet of helicopters. What appear to be perspective lines (though they have little to do with the perspective of the drawings) run across Krueger’s scenes like refugees from Art 1. 
A fair amount of the remainder of the exhibit is left to Krueger’s plates– as in the kind you eat from when we’re not in a drought– decorated with china paint and hung on the gallery wall. The plates all have images that you wouldn’t expect to pop up beneath a cube of mac and cheese. Krueger includes odd elements, like a vomiting lion, as well as pop cultural artifacts from his youth, such as characters from the video game Pac Man. 
And with these plates, Krueger has just about filled this exhibit to capacity with self-consciously clever art. People will like “Everyday Alchemy,” because it’s sorta funny in that doesn’t-make-you-laugh kinda way. But it’s also too easy, and does little besides further cluttering an already crowded pop culture universe.

At the Second Street Gallery, Michael Krueger’s “Everyday Alchemy,” an exhibit of recent prints, drawings, and small sculptures, many taking Virginia history as their subject matter, is on view. 201 Second St. NW. 977-7284.