Michael Queenland spins trash on the ground into clever canvases of the living
By Leah Ollman
Jan 13, 2018 | 8:00 AM
Michael Queenland's provocative, playful show at Kristina Kite Gallery originated on the streets of Rome, where the L.A.-based artist spent 2016 at the American Academy. "Roam" is a chronicle of sorts, a record of what Queenland picked up on his walks through the city, and the show's pun of a title sets the tone for an installation spiked with wit.
Two dozen inch-thick square and rectangular panels sit on the gallery floor. Each bears a checkerboard pattern of squares: those that mimic the stone mosaic designs of Italian churches, alternating with those of white ceramic tile printed with images of detritus that Queenland collected.
One panel features images of spent balloons, another an assortment of fliers advertising repair services. Numerous panels display discarded cigarette boxes, including their various graphic health warnings. In some panels, the triangular granite and marble shapes are loose, or merely stacked, as if the work is in process, a puzzle not yet solved. Greenland sets a few plastic foam containers of such pieces around the room, coyly titling them "Ruins," when they are actually components of the not-yet-built.
Throughout, Queenland sets up a low-level friction between order (the geometric patterns, the categorization of found items) and randomness or chance (evoked by lottery tickets and playing cards). The work abounds in other contrasts — between sacred space and the street, for instance, between artisanship and mass production, and between associations with high and low status.
On his roamings, Queenland carried the baggage of a postmodern, self-reflexive conceptualist. He doesn't only find new uses for trash but also repurposes a few choice art historical strategies, mostly from the 1960s.
Carl Andre's floor-bound metal plate sculptures are an obvious foundation for this work, as is Victor Burgin's "Photopath," in which printed images of flooring both refer to and act as the real thing. (Selections from another, older series of Queenland's here, pairing photographs in the New York Times with whatever appeared on the opposite side of the page, spring from the same general idea as Robert Heinecken's groundbreaking prints.)
Queenland's work amounts to more than knowing winks and nods. It's a conversation with what has come before — a clever one, with the potential to surprise and challenge. To experience transcendence, it suggests, look down, and appreciate anew the ground as a pedestal for the everyday performance of life.
Kristina Kite Gallery, 3400 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. Through Feb. 10; closed Sundays-Tuesdays. (323) 643-4656, www.kristinakitegallery.la