Critics’ Picks

David Kramer, Hooking up with Dave (detail), 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

David Kramer, Hooking up with Dave (detail), 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

New York

David Kramer

298 Grand Street
October 21–December 16, 2016

Dave swims in and out of view over a rocking sea of yarn-festooned burlap. Dancing in the double vision of overlaid video, Dave’s face becomes the center of an increasingly tight frame, zooming in on eyes that gaze bleakly below a sweaty forehead. It’s time for Hooking up with Dave, 2016, artist David Kramer’s attic installation.

On the gallery’s rickety third floor, Kramer’s tableau feels like a crawlspace/derelict boys’ club, complete with a Mad Men–style liquor selection, sans the 1960s ritz. Hanging across from a miniature pool table, a hook-rug tiger skin glows in neon green. And laid directly on the floorboards is a rather suspect bed, sporting an oversize pillow illustrated with the cartoonish faces of a couple necking with abandon.

On a screen to the right of the bed, the artist gives us hook-rugging pointers from a YouTube tutorial that shows him in slow progress on the aforementioned tiger skin and cushion. Innuendo meets hobby talk in Kramer’s avid effusions: “Soon enough, you’ve got a whole project under your belt” or “I can spend hours just hooking up.” Slowly, the infomercial quality fades as the video takes on a confessional atmosphere. With the unsettling fervor of a middle-aged man seeking escape in childlike petulance, Kramer’s character describes the double demons of a shrewish wife and an estranged son. It remains uncertain, however, if they’re the symptom or cause of his obsessive new hobby. This is an American Beauty sort of midlife crisis that finds illicit satisfaction in a ball of yarn, not seducing a child’s pretty, precocious friend. Despite craft’s wholesomeness, Kramer’s creations are not for volunteer librarians or even the office Secret Santa pool. Rather, they bespeak a struggle for virility, doomed by an absurd, tragic dream that a better man can be conjured with hook and thread.