“Visual Music” by Burton Kramer and a Newspaper Girl’s Struggle to Understand

Is it possible for a graphic designer to struggle to analyze what would be considered “abstract” art? I believe that the answer is “yes.” Despite the fact that I am well aware of the principles of design and what is, for the most part, general practice among graphic designers, I suppose my dilemma stems from the fact that this particular piece takes liberties from the principles of design that I am most familiar with. Because I have a background in newspaper and magazine layout design, which follow very specific rules regarding alignment, contrast, spacing, etc. I realize that I have to look at this with a completely different critical eye.

To begin, I will assess the color and value of the piece. There are many colors and subsequent shades of those colors depicted, including a predominance of greens, blues, and corals. The other, lesser colors present include orange, violet, and a white, almost eggshell background. Though this is not a black and white image, I want to briefly touch on the fact that there are variations in the shades of the predominant colors. In particular, Kramer’s use of a lighter shade of blue on the small triangle that is half blue and half coral superimposed on the large green. I believe that this shading effect on the triangle creates the sensation that the small blue triangle is coming out of the picture. In other words, the blue in the small triangle is highlighted to stand out from the blues in the other two, larger triangles, and thus it jumps out at viewers. In addition, another literal element of this piece that I believe creates depth is Kramer’s use of lines and shapes. For example, the large, green triangle is strategically placed what appears to be beneath another layer of shapes, including the small triangle mentioned previously so as to create the sensation that there are multiple layers. The lines that actually form the different triangles are strategically broken up by the lines of another triangle or shape to create this layering sensation. Therefore, it is clear the Kramer intended for the small blue and coral triangle as well as the pinkish-grey box placed on top of the large green triangle to appear in the foreground of the piece because the lines that form each of these objects are not broken. Additionally, there is another layer that can be argued as the primary foreground of the piece. It consists of two, smaller boxes, one a light blue and one a light orange, I argue this because these two boxes are placed on top of the larger, light pink box and the blue and green triangle situated to the right of the piece respectively, are not disturbed by the lines of other shapes.

The final three literal elements of design are a bit more challenging to discuss due to the fact that they relate most easily to 3-dimensional objects, I will briefly discuss the form, texture, and space of this piece of art. The literal form of the piece is a flat canvas onto which the art itself was either painted or printed. However, as discussed earlier, despite the artwork’s 2-dimensional surface, the artist is able to create layering that gives the piece a 3-dimentional feel. Though layering is created for the naked-eye, the literal surface or texture of the piece is, simply, a smooth surface. It seems that the theme of this analysis is that there is layering that a casual viewer may not see; however, critically looking at space of this piece as it relates to Kramer’s created layers, it is apparent, that certain shapes are placed apart from each other and on top of each other to create this effect.

Though I have already tied in how the literal elements create an intentional arrangement of the objects in the artwork, it appears that there is a grid used for the purposes of orienting the shapes in the artwork and to highlight key shapes. For example, the small, rectangular boxes, squares, and triangles that are featured all around the large, green triangle, are either positioned horizontally or vertically. This indicates the importance of the larger objects, particularly the objects that are tilted to not fit within this created grid. The concept of dominance supports the idea that the green triangle and the offset, smaller shapes are more important due to their angle and color highlighting mentioned earlier. It is important to point out, that there is not a clear sense of balance in the artwork; however, the proportionate sizes of the large triangles versus the small, rectangles dotted around the piece not only create a foreground/background (i.e. the rectangles are small and in the background, and the larger shapes are in the foreground) the principle of proportion further lends itself to the constructed layering created by Kramer.

It is truly amazing how, to some, this piece may appear to simply be a random conglomeration of shapes and colors. However, through careful examination, we see that there was careful precision, planning and definite method used in the creation of this compelling piece.



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