Considering current events, it may be easy to wonder if David Kramer’s paintings have a slight political bent. Much like the characters in his work, we’ve had to collectively reassess our own aspirations amid the failed promises of the credit and housing bubbles. But taking stock of one’s own life is far from a political act, and Kramer’s work is probably too introspective to be social activism. In his paintings, Kramer, who is a child of the 70s, responds with disappointment to the glossy promises of 1970s lifestyle magazine ads. His response can begin to seem like a latently familiar one, and whether we perceive this personally or collectively is likely to depend on the viewer.
Heiner Contemporary in Washington, D.C. is currently exhibiting a solo show by New York-based David Kramer titled Prequel to the Sequel: Waiting for a Hollywood Ending, which runs through October 22. I caught up with the artist to ask him a few questions about his work. His answers, and photos from Prequel to the Sequel, after the jump.
Matthew Smith: It looks like in your work you’re sourcing vintage magazines from the 1970s. Where do the images in your paintings come from?
David Kramer: Yes. Much of the imagery does in fact come from 1970′s ads and life style magazines.
MS: Does the decade of the 1970s hold any particular significance to you, or are you using the outdated imagery as a way to evoke nostalgia in your viewers?
DK: Well, I grew up in the 1970s. This was the decade that I really came of age. I graduated High School in 1981. So when I was a kid I remember that we used to get The New Yorker and Esquire and LOOK delivered to my home. I used to look at these magazines all the time. And Playboy if I happened to be at a friend’s house. I would love to look at the images and glossy ads in these magazines. They always kind of seemed like they were images of adulthood. What life was going to be like soon. What I really wanted.
The cigarette ads and car ads always showing women looking longingly. And men gazing out into the future. Couples lingering over drinks….
I fully expected adult life to include all sorts of things. Fulfillment of all sorts of desires. As much as everything was at that point unknown to me about my future, I felt certain that my future would look a lot like what I was looking at in those ads. I am not really interested in nostalgia as far as my work goes. I am still hoping to grow up and get my hands on those things.
MS: Writing is a big part of your work. What is your writing process like? Do you keep a running journal or is it more off the cuff than that?
DK: Writing is probably at the center of everything I do. I do not keep a journal. Mostly I write directly. Off the cuff. I do find that I am a pretty good story teller too. Orally. And if I am talking to someone, or a group of people, at a party or on the street, and I tell a little anecdote that gets a good laugh out of my audience, I will run to my studio and write it down.
It is the story that leads to the one-liners. The drawing (or painting) uses these kind of one-liners. I sort of am like going through a giant file cabinet in the back of my mind the whole time I am drawing. And usually I just so happen to put my fingers on the file with the appropriate joke at the very moment that I am finishing a piece. There is of course some back and forth going back into my drawings after this moment, but for the most part my drawings end with this sort of bang.
MS: There’s a personal sincerity to your work but at times there’s also a political edge to it. Is some of your work meant to have a political edge, or is it a sign that I’ve been watching too many cable news shows recently?
DK: I do often work with NPR on in the background….
MS: Can you tell me about your installations? At Heiner you’ve built living room furnishings (seats, a sofa, lamp, etc) that sit in the middle of the exhibition space. For other shows you’ve built a fully functional bar. What’s the idea behind these installations and how are they related to your two-dimensional work?
DK: For the installation at Heiner Contemporary I wanted to build something that suggested a living room from my memories of living in suburbia as a kid. I like to create inventive seating arrangements whenever I have a show. I like to lull the audience off of their feet. Buy some time. Seduce them into sticking around the gallery. I have always hated text based work. I have hated having to go to a gallery and being forced to read some didactic descriptions on the walls. But, in the end, I find that I myself am one of these insufferable text-based artists too. So I like to at least offer some comfortable chairs for anyone who has to suffer through my work. Maybe an alcoholic beverage or a Twinkie.
MS: What’s next? Can you tell me about projects that you have going on right now?
DK: I will let you know. But I can tell you now…the future looks very little like what I imagine it’s supposed to be.
Trained as a painter at George Washington University (BA Fine Arts 1985) and as a sculptor at Pratt Institute (MFA 1987), Kramer’s work has been exhibited throughout North America and Europe. Recent shows include exhibitions at Galerie Laurent Godin in Paris (2009 and 2010), Galleria Traghetto in Italy (2007), and Aeroplastics Contemporary in Brussels (2010). Kramer has received numerous awards, including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1989, Sculpture Space Residency in 1992, and Yaddo Residency in 2008. Armand Bartos Fine Art, New York hosted a retrospective of the artist’s work last year.