No Mixed Messages

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.



It’s
impossible to categorize artist David Kramer. He’s been showing work for over
20 years, and his mediums include painting, sculpture, drawing, poetry and
video. Kramer is a different kind of artist.

His
social commentary almost always is from the artist’s point of view (himself,
really) and broaches the artist’s continous struggle for success. His often
self-effacing sense of humor is what has set his work apart from a lot of other
multi-media artist types. Beneath all of the paintings, installations and videos,
what permeates the atmosphere is Kramer’s unpretentious sensibility. There
really is a universal truth that lays beneath the surface.

The
Brooklyn-based artist has a retrospective exhibition at Armand Bartos titled, Seems Like We’ve Been Down This Road Before.
It’s a survey of works from 1989 to 2010, but it’s really something else
entirely.

The
gallery is transformed into Kramer’s states of mind: The space itself is
delineated into two sections by Kramer’s installation: “Untitled (Immediate
Satisfaction).” It’s composed of a large green painting that resembles a 1960s
cigarette advertisement from the era. The painting is hung on bare wall studs
painted black (resembling bars) and includes a fully stocked bar cart lit from
below. This creates a dense/confusing scenario, matching painting with the immediate
environment.

Only
upon hindsight does one get the full experience (since it is so embedded into
the surroundings); this large installation becomes almost subtle. The painting is
of a circa 1960s young, loving couple who are both smoking cigarettes and
smiling while relaxing in the countryside. It’s all rather idyllic, however,
the text belies the scene. On the upper right, the painted text reads: “it seems like i’ve spent half of my life trying
to get immediate satisfaction
.” The lower right corner counters with: “and the other half complaining that i’m not
getting enough of it
.” This is the essence of David Kramer’s work—using
multiple mediums simultaneously—but it is so down to earth that a viewer can forget
that you’re viewing art. His unselfconciousness is his charm—and arsenal.

Kramer’s
evolution is hard-earned and wide-ranging. He started out in the 1980s as a
painter and sculptor. Not limited to these forms, Kramer got involved in the
poetry scene. This influence was transmuted into his visual art when he started
using text in his works. The concept of text took on a life of its own. Kramer,
after doing spokenword performances, then delved into film. His natural sense
of the "leading man" makes his videos shine.

Videos include a silent film and “Ode To an Artist.” For his silent film, he
actually designed and built the furniture that the audience is encouraged to sit
on and use. The retro seating draws the viewer into the film (a comment on the
current art scene set back a hundred years ago).

Kramer
documents the artist’s quest for greatness in a light-hearted way that carries
much weight, and this exhibition consists of the ripe fruits of Kramer’s labor.

David
Kramer: Seems Like We’ve Been Down This Road Before, through July 30. Armand
Bartos Fine Art
, 25 E. 73rd St. (at Madison Ave.),212-288-6705

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