Visual Music: An Exhibition of Paintings by Burton Kramer

The University Gallery and Vignelli Center for Design Studies are sponsoring an exhibition of paintings by legendary graphic designer Burton Kramer. The exhibition runs from August 6 through October 6, 2012.

Visual Music is an exhibition of paintings by graphic designer and painter Burton Kramer. As a designer, Kramer’s clients include the Royal Ontario Museum, Reed Paper, the Eaton Centre (Toronto’s most famous urban mall), and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


Syncopation 1

Kramer began designing as a student at the Institute of Design in Chicago where he was exposed to Bauhaus design. He then went to Yale for graduate school, where he studied with Paul Rand, Alexey Brodovitch, Josef Albers and Bradbury Thompson. He then worked for Will Burtin, where he worked on projects for Upjon Pharmaceuticals. Kramer then worked at the Halpern design agency in Zurich. From there Kramer moved to Toronto in 1965 and went on to develop graphics for Expo 67 in Montreal.
In 1967 he established his own studio.

A modernist, Kramer’s paintings pay homage to his teacher, Josef Albers. “For me, painting is music. Just as music is governed by its own compositional rules and rarely references a literal story line, painting should also enjoy the same absolute dissociation from the familiar, representational world.”

Burton Kramer will visit the Rochester Institute of Technology in September and be the Vignelli Center for Design Studies’ first Design Conversations lecturer for the 2012/2013 academic year. Kramer will speak on Thursday September 13 at 12:00 pm.

Artist’s Statement
Each of my paintings is expressive of musical themes, but they do not reference any specific composition. They are not intended to be the visual equivalent of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky.

The paintings do not “abstract” reality, but provide their own (alternate) reality, just as music does.

Instrumentally produced, layered sound offers the listener sensory pleasure. In my paintings, color, integrated in a structure-based composition provides a similar pleasure.

My work references dancing feet, jazz, bebop, swing, baroque and folk music, Mozart, Corelli and Haitian drumming.

Composition, which is geometry-based, provides a structure for the color; the color provides the actual sounds.

I am interested, only out of basic curiosity, in an artist’s process. I am totally interested in the visual statement…the result.

I have never hesitated to tell anyone who asks, exactly how I work. I do not feat that they will then copy what I do because what I do is an expression of my own experiences and interests.

If painting is a visual language as music is an auditory language, both relying on their appeal to the senses, then no verbal explanation should be necessary to enable the viewer to say “Oh now I see.”

To fully experience music, you need a receptive ear. To fully experience these paintings the viewer needs to taste to color, hear/feel the rhythms, the moods, the music.


Bourée 2A4A


Bourée 2A3A

University Gallery Location
166 Lomb Memorial Drive
James E Booth Hall, Room 2765
Rochester NY 14625
Phone: 585.475.2866

University Gallery Hours
Monday through Thursday 9am – 5pm
Friday & Saturday 10am – 2pm
Closed Sundays

University Gallery hours coincide with the Rochester Institute of Technology academic calendar.

Related Events
Design Conversations: Burton Kramer
Thursday, September 13, 2012
12:00 pm
Webb Auditorium, Booth Hall
Rochester Institute of Technology

Gallery Reception
Thursday, September 13, 2012
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
University Gallery
166 Lomb Memorial Drive
James E Booth Hall, Room 2765
Rochester NY 14625

For more information about Burton Kramer,
please visit the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Graphic Design Archive.