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Visual Music

Graphic designer, Burton Kramer recently gave a lecture at the Rochester Institute of Technology and although I did not attend the lecture I did have the opportunity to visit the exhibit of his work at the University Gallery.

Upon entering the gallery it became clear that I had not done my research on the designer or his exhibit. I expected to enter the gallery and be confronted with prints of graphic art composed electronically but instead stood looking at acrylic paintings on canvas. My first impression was that the paintings looked dated with somewhat muted colors. The pieces were abstract and rigid with their geometric shapes leaving their meanings open to interpretation by the viewer.

After reading more about the exhibit, I began to better understand Kramer intent. The exhibit is called Visual Music and is intended to reference the feelings that one experiences when listening to music.  In his artist’s statement, Kramer explains the intent of this exhibit. He states that the composition, which is geometry-based, provides a structure for the color; the color provides the actual sounds.” Kramer’s statement explains his reasoning for choosing colors which I initially found unappealing at the exhibit. The colors used in Kramer’s piece, Flicker Yellow differ greatly than those in his other pieces such as Syncopation 2 and 3. In Flicker Yellow, Kramer uses bold and bright colors such as the yellow background. Because of the large surface covered by yellow, the piece feels warm; however, Kramer also includes cool hues such as teal and purple.

Flicker Yellow is flat color and has no shadows. The depth in this piece comes from the appearance of shapes being on top of the yellow background color. The shapes could also be interpreted by the viewer as being behind the yellow, as if the contrasting colored squares are holes. Because the geometric shapes and color are the main focus on the piece, there is no appearance of lines. Kramer has managed to create a piece that uses squares as the main focus and puts squares within other squares. The artist does this by arranging smaller squares systematically to create a larger square on a square canvas.

Along with the analogous shapes, the viewer is also given a sense of balance through the use of a symmetrical pattern, overall composition, and proportion. These aspects of the piece paired with Kramer’s intentional reference to music give the viewer the opportunity to speculate about what this musical composition would sound like. I would presume that the piece’s bright colors and symmetrical pattern would produce a musical composition with an upbeat and consistent tempo.

Flicker Yellow by Burton Kramer




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