BEIRUT: The U.S. community of Malibu has a certain pop culture resonance. For some, Malibu suggests images of flashy Cadillac automobiles, palm trees, bling-obsessed fashionistas and a crowded Pacific Coast highway. Redolent of Los Angeles county in the 1970s, these scenes mark the point of departure for the work of U.S. artist David Kramer, specifically the stuff of his new exhibition, entitled “ Malibu on the Mediterranean,” now up at Mar Mikhael’s Galerie Tanit-Beyrouth.
Comprised of 19 mixed-media works and an installation piece, “ Malibu on the Mediterranean” introduces onlookers to a culture that is quite alien. Or is it?
Apparently, Kramer wasn’t sure whether his works would please the public. In his artist’s statement, he expressed some concerns regarding the omnipresence of “advertisements and lifestyle magazines” in his works as a trifle obsolete nowadays.
At his Thursday opening, Kramer’s works were welcomed with much amusement and admiration as they echo the way many people in this country feel and behave – clothes, cars and appearances having considerable local currency.
Each of the artist’s works is accompanied by text that punctuates Kramer’s vistas – ”I Hate it when I Have to Act My Age,” “Dress Me Up You Can Take Me Everywhere ... You already Know How Bad I Can Be,” and “For Now, I am Willing to Start Small.”
In one of his works, a topless woman is pictured riding a massive plastic dinosaur in a public park. This risqué tableau suggests something of Malibu as a byword for eternal youth and beauty.
Kramer’s works exude humor. In his gouache and ink-on-paper work “Modest Goals,” a couple stands alongside a Porsche. Written at the bottom of the work, the sentence “For Now, I am Willing to Start Small” suggests the ridiculousness of consumer-driven materialism – conventionally, “starting small” would imply buying a low-key automobile rather than an expensive sports car.
Another somewhat intriguing work, “Truck Stop Humor,” finds a man and a woman pictured lying on the ground next to their car, kissing. The wheel is the only part of the vehicle that’s visible. Onto this Kramer has written, “With Me It’s Like I Am Reinventing the Wheel Every Time...”
The allusively titled “Lousy Dresser” depicts a woman sitting seductively on a man’s lap, lighting his cigar. The ornate piece “Dress Me Up and You Can Take Me Anywhere ... You Already Know How Bad I Can Be” epitomizes the train of thought associated with American women in the 1970s, yet the avaricious sentiment it expresses is not unheard of today.
At the center of the gallery, people will find a “members only” VIP Lounge, which has been separated from the rest of the space by portable poles with red velvet cords – the sort of thing you might find in a bank or cinema queue.
At first, during the exhibition’s opening people didn’t dare encroach on this “VIP” space. Little by little, patrons all began to enter the zone and pour themselves drinks from the bottles on the shelves – all of which were “built out of contemporary cheap and repurposed building materials.”
The signs VIP and “Members Only” offer a provocation to the public’s view of the work and the event that frames its exhibition. Cheap materials underscore triviality. The exclusive space is less important than being seen within it.
Throughout his work, Kramer reflects upon a consumerist culture that may have found its epitome on the west coast of the United States but that continues to speak to materialist tastes the world over, even in Lebanon. The glossy spread is its blueprint.
David Kramer’s “ Malibu on the Mediterranean” is now on show at Galerie Tanit-Beyrouth until Oct. 30. For more information, please call 76-557-662.