“Look, everything is an art, even if it is just sweeping the floor”-Randy Burman
Luis Gutierrez is currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.
Randy Burman is a local Miami artist who brings movements such as conceptuality and performance art to his art pieces. He also dabbles in graphic design and has a plethora of references to support it. His story began in 1947 in Baltimore, where he grew up surrounded by numerous amount of influences, one being the Hebrew parochial school he attended when he younger. This school made him rethink his artistic abilities and unfortunately left a grave impact on his perspective on schools in general because in 1968, he left the Maryland Institute College of Art to produce and attend to more meaningful things in his life.
One person who played a role in being a significant influence in Randy becoming an artist was a man by the name of Ruben Kramer. Ruben was a Baltimore pen and ink artist his studio was the first art studio Randy had attended. Randy visited him shortly after graduating high school in 1965 and was super impressed by his studio, mainly because it had a Northern light window. Seeing his studio and having those artistic conversations with him greatly impacted Randy, so much that he saw himself in his own studio later in the future.
One personal experience that Randy mentioned that left a significant impact on his road to becoming an artist occurred when he was a young boy in Baltimore.
“We (his family and him) lived in a suburban type neighborhood and my parents’ bedroom faced the street. And looking out from that window, I would see all these 50s cars on the street. Also, I lived near a dealership and I was able to see the new cars that would come out in September before anyone else. Nothing could match that feeling. It was like orgasmic to me”
With viewing these beautiful cars, both parked on the street near his house and in the car dealer blocks away, Randy was inspired by their shape and design so much that he began to illustrate them. He used typewriter paper and color pencils to sketch out the profile of the cars and then tape them up on his bedroom wall. These illustrations eventually became a grid on his wall with more than 30 of them put up and every year he would update the designs of his cars. Randy also compared his actions to that of a young boy in the prehistoric age drawing buffalos in a cave.
12-year-old Randy made a breakthrough discovery with the comparison of himself to young caveman. He reflected and saw that neither his brothers nor his friends were doing the same illustrations as him and he quickly realized that he was different from the rest. Randy found out that he had a specific personality type and that there was one word that can describe what that was: artist.
Randy mentioned that cultural and national identity is important to him in his interview, but it is also significantly evident that this was true through his artwork. He also elaborated on how some of his artworks provoke a political message and identity. One installation named “Dance to Fascism” directly compares former President Trump’s rally to a rally for Hitler and the Nazis. Here, he had rows of chairs set up with torches next to them and he also constructed banners, stickers, hats, and other objects that had the phrase “LIES ARE TRUTH”.
“I basically made a miniature MAGA rally with a video being played in the center piece. I recorded some of the outrageous comments that people who attended those rallies would say like ‘Lock him up’ and other quotes and I put them on some of my old iPhones. And with those, I taped them to the bottom of chairs to make it sound like a rally. I also put the four T’s together to get a little swastika looking thing. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do this art piece, but I felt compelled to face this reality that was going on and have other people face it with me”.
Some artistic movements that Randy identifies with are conceptuality and performance art. Conceptual art is “art for which the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the finished art object” (Tate). His artwork holds a deeper meaning and more often than not, is supposed to give a message. It is not the actual art piece or installation that is sought upon but rather the symbolism for the bigger picture that it portrays. Randy has also explored performance art with several exhibitions that engages the audience into the artwork and through online videos. Both of these artistic movements showcase Randy’s ideas, emotion, and effort seamlessly.
SUBJECT OF ARTWORK
The many art pieces produced by Randy don’t all have one singular meaning. He produces each art piece as a representation of something bigger and they are always as unique in meaning as the next one. Each symbolize and produce a different vision in which Randy wants to convey. Some are for political statements while others are for the spreading awareness of certain topics and ideas such as poetry.
One of his more recent works is titled ‘Burying Racist Presidents’ and is a video that goes into depth into our nation’s long line of presidents. In this video, Randy displays busts of the heads of American presidents being buried into the ground as soil is poured over them. Along with this display, a narrator speaks on behalf of each president named and lists the forgotten, looked over details of our leaders such as their racist beliefs.
In this artwork and in many others, Randy successfully provides a story and meaning to his audience. Whether the audience agrees or disagrees, he clearly shows his message through beautiful, creative, and original means.
FORMAL ELEMENTS OF ARTWORK
Though some artists are either strictly spontaneous or strictly calculated, Randy has proved to be a bit of both. In one of his creations, known as ‘Assemblages’, he tells the tale of pure spontaneous creativity working at its best.
“With some studio searches, occasional dumpster dives, and some Home Depot trips, I collected random objects and laid them out in my studio with absolutely no plan. With no preconceived idea, let’s try to see what’s there. Maybe this goes with this. Or this attaches to this. And in each case, it was telling a metaphysical story and that was exactly was I was looking for”.
My personal favorite from ‘Assemblages’ is a piece known as “Ivan” in which depicts the face of a man constructed from several random objects such as a bottle tap, a computer piece, and the straws from a broom.
A great example of Randy being a calculated artist as well is the installation known as “Vent-o-matic”. Here, he dives into a political statement about both current and past politicians. In this installation, there are several hand painted portraits of these politicians on a fence and a long table presented in front of them. On this long table, there are dozens of shoes that are encouraged by the public to be thrown at these portraits. And to Randy’s surprise, these shoes didn’t need encouragement to be thrown and that this “venting” was a mutual feeling for many Americans.
In this art piece, Randy did a bit of research and found that the bottom of the shoe was a sign of disrespect that can be traced all the way back to Alexander the Great. Back then, there was a bust of his face before the temple steps and people would walk over his face both physically and figuratively. And so, these shoes that were being thrown would serve as a symbol for the public to display their feelings towards politicians. Also, Randy needed to calculate the distance of the installation in regard to the fence that contained the portraits and where the public was able to throw the shoes. He needed to do this because the shoes might bounce off and ricochet back to the public. With both calculated and spontaneous methods, Randy proved to incorporate both styles into his different pieces.
EXHIBITION AND PROJECT HISTORY
Randy’s artwork has been displayed in countless locations, both as permanent and temporary exhibitions. From the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University to the Art Gallery in Palm Beach College, there were and still are many opportunities to see his work.
One particular experience Randy had at Art Basel in Miami Beach one year influenced one of his works and ultimately shined light into an issue with people who attend Art Basel.
“I believe you cannot to Art Basel all in one day. I just can’t. And so I noticed that people were looking at the art works for like three seconds and then moving on to the next one. I’m thinking that each of these artists that have their art displayed probably put countless hours into their work just to have it seen for three seconds by an individual. Three seconds of appreciation isn’t enough so that’s when I had the idea of an artwork that would engage people in a way that was more than just looking”.
This idea for an artwork was titled ‘Art of Destruction’ which involved three shredders placed on a table and across from them is another table that contained hundreds of small prints. And On these prints were famous paintings and artists from history such as Van Gogh and the Mona Lisa. Finally, on the back wall was a luminated sign that read the words, “Old art must die in order for new art to be born”. People who walked into the exhibit would be encouraged to pick one of the prints up and place them in the shredder. Randy mentioned that he would ask some of the participants why they chose those artists or artworks and the answers he received were quite humorous. One participant said that they chose the Mona Lisa because she made the participant wait hours in a line to see her.
This art piece really challenged viewers to be engaged and be a part of the art instead of just viewing it. Especially just viewing it for only three seconds. It serves as a representation to take in the art when you can and really dissect it with both your eyes and mind.
I had the wonderful privilege of not only interviewing a great artist, but also a great man. Randy was very easy to talk to and answered my questions with more than enough responses. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the experiences that shaped him into becoming an artist and the more recent ones regarding his artwork. He made me laugh on numerous occasions during the interview and was superb all around. I would absolutely enjoy working and talking with him again.
One of the main takeaways that I received through this interaction was that all art has meaning. I know many believe that some art is created with no purpose or meaning, but I truly believe this to be untrue. Whether the artist intentionally put a meaning or not, every piece of art has a story attached to it and a purpose for it being written. From the small scribble in a notebook to the Mona Lisa, every piece of art has one. And I think that is incredibly extraordinary to ponder on.
Tate. “Conceptual Art – Art Term.” Tate, www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/c/conceptual-art.
Randy Burman. randyburman.com/.
Gutierrez, Luis, director. Interview with Randy Burman. Zoom, 21 Apr. 2021.
Stories, Local. “Meet Randy Burman, Artist and Cultural Interventionist in North Miami.” Voyage MIA Magazine | Miami City Guide, 9 Aug. 2018, voyagemia.com/interview/meet-randy-burman-randy-burman-artist-cultural-interventionist-north-miami/.