By LISA LEVY, June 2020
For artist David Kramer, one major disruption was that his collaboration with Hedi Slimane of Celine for the Spring/Summer men’s clothing line would be hibernating in closed Celine stores around the world. “Disappointment” doesn’t quite cover the moment for David, (as well as many of you!) But, to cope, David says he spent his indoor time making hook rugs! Fortunately, David Kramer’s collaboration with Celine is currently back on track with Celine stores reopening globally as well as robust online sales.
LISA LEVY: A lot of artists have had their work interrupted by the full Covid 19 experience, quarantine, cancellations, etc. What was your experience?
DAVID KRAMER: Well, as you know, I had collaborated with Celine for their SS2020 men’s wear line using my work; a full line of David Kramer clothing. There had been press and a runway show in Paris that I went to for the launch of the new line, last June. And now suddenly here we are: Spring/Summer 2020. As if there wasn’t enough irony with me working in the world of luxury brands...I got to do it in the midst of a global pandemic.
So, in the first week of March, Celine brought me to Paris to create a large painting on the window of the store on Rue Duphot, to announce the new line.
It was super stressful traveling at that moment and after all that I think they ended up putting plywood up over the window a week after. All of Paris shut down for the lockdown.
LL: That sounds upsetting-how did you feel and how did you cope?
DK: The actual painting of the window was stressful enough. But the traveling was crazy then. I sat next to a guy on the way over who was wearing a mask, and he also had eyeshades on the whole time. I don’t think he wanted to talk to anyone. De Gaulle was totally empty and the flight home was half full. I definitely felt like the crisis was happening in real time.
And while I was in Paris, I had a meeting with Laurent Godin, my dealer there. We had been talking for a while about an exhibition, and we finally hammered out the details for a show that was supposed to happen at his gallery in June. I was planning a show of new hook rugs and I was super excited. Now, who knows when exactly it is going to happen with that show at this point? Hopefully soon we can figure out a schedule.
Well, I decided I was going to work on the show anyway, at home on my kitchen table. I didn’t realize at the time how fortuitous it was that I had a show of hooked rugs coming up to work on. I could make the rugs at home without going to the studio. And rug hooking can be pretty calming. Just think of people who knit when they get nervous.
LL: Are there any crafters in your background or how did you come to rug hooking?
DK: When I was a kid in the 1970’s, my aunt Joyce’s house in New Jersey was filled with these burlap and yarn hook rugs that she was making. At the time she was a housewife with lots of kids. She made these rugs on her walls, mostly flowers and butterflies. I loved them. I was totally struck by them. Anyway, fast forward to a couple of years ago, I did this project with LMAK Gallery. Bart offered me the top floor of the building (which was literally filled with rubble and plaster when he showed it to me). I got this idea to make a sort of ironic bachelor pad in that dumpy space. And of course I wanted it to have a tiger skin rug. For some reason I decided I had to MAKE the rug and then I started thinking about my aunt’s hook rugs. I started out by watching YouTube videos about hook rugs and I made a tiger skin. Then the whole show seemed to go from being about a bachelor pad to the apartment for some weird guy who threw away his dreams of becoming an artist and somehow settled on a path of being a YouTuber hook rug guy.
I made my own YouTube hook rug video, a piece called Hooking Up with Dave. And I filled the space with all these hook rugs that I made at the time. Lots of liquor bottles...
So I still have this Hook Rug Bug, and these days I have been making a bunch of good looking ones on during the quarantine of sunsets with some text on them. I am calling this series Mar-A-Lago Sunsets.
LL: What sort of impact do you think being quarantined, as well as being in Manhattan throughout all this, might have on you and your work?
DK: The experience here has been pretty surreal.
I was joking at first when the City was so empty that my neighborhood felt like it did in the 1980’s and 90’s. The streets were totally vacant and when you did see someone on the street you would cross it well in advance to avoid getting into something. And now with all the plywood it reminds me even more of New York in 1970’s only then the plywood was up because the stores were empty. Now behind that play wood are stores filled with clothes and stuff.
I didn’t leave Manhattan for about 7 weeks. I decided to watch Escape From New York, the night before I was channeling Kurt Russell when I finally biked over to my studio in Brooklyn. After being away for so long, it was a relief to be back.
As far as my work goes, it is really ironic to me to be making these rugs with sunsets considering we were all in quarantine. In reality we were not even supposed to be able to go outside and actually see a real one.
LL: Did you vandalize or loot from the Celine store in Soho—did you get caught?
DK: No comment.
LL: We are entering a new phase of the pandemic-sort of a new normal-do you have a new normal?
DK: The new normal for me, seems to be vivid dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night followed by late night hours of me wondering what the fuck that was all about... For all this time I’ve been at home I have not slept for more than an hour or two at a time. Luckily, I have rug hooking to do. WM
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