MIAMI ART WEEK SPECIAL: Ruth Burotte, “SOLO, Not Alone” at Swampspace gallery.

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Ruth Burotte and her twenty-three years of pure energy saw her first solo exhibition titled, “SOLO, Not Alone,” come to fruition during Miami Art Week and within the walls of Swampspace.

For those who are not familiar with Miami and want to know its history in depth, going far beyond the facade, which only gives a certain image of the city, Swampspace is a real mecca in the heart of the Design District. In addition to being an art gallery, Swampspace, is a creative space, an art workshop with a family structure: “a springboard for artists” as defined by Oliver Sanchez, the owner who, with his wife Min, -“my rockstar” he defines her-, and their daughter Lucia, founded the creative space in 2008 becoming a real reference point for artists and not of the Magic City.

From left, Oliver Sanchez and Ruth Burotte

Ruth Burotte and Oliver Sanchez’s story begins years ago, when during her years of study at the New World School of the Arts-and where the artist graduated this year-he mentored her. “I love Ruth, she’s fantastic,”Sanchez says of her.

Together they created a large 30-foot mural on SW 27th Avenue in Coconut Grove in 2019. “It was my first mural and it’s nice when, back at the site people remember me and appreciate it,” Ruth Burotte says about it, smiling.

Oliver Sanchez and Ruth Burotte work in progress at the murale in Coconut Grove murale

Ruth Burotte also created a mural for her solo show, and she did so on the walls of Swampspace with incredible speed, a tangible sign of her talent. On the mural typically in manga style he then displayed her works making them stories in the story. For the occasion she also made a small book. The meaning of art for Ruth Burotte is in fact to tell stories. 

Her, in particular, are stories in which she effectively combines the everyday life of ordinary characters, as in the case of the story, with the world of superheroes, villains in particular, the antagonists. “All self-made characters,” says the artist.

The Villains, from left, the Constructor Worker, the Plumber and the Eletrician

The story told by Burotte unfolds through the artist’s works on the walls of the Swampspace, in which she highlights on the one hand the protagonists of the story with their peculiarities and on the other hand the evolution of events, linked to the moods of Ibyoo, the protagonist.

Ibyoo is a young girl with no aspirations who works part-time as a cashier at an ATOMISK gas station. ATOMISK is the company that owns everything, including the planet, and where the three villains work: the Constructor Worker, the plumber and the  the electrician, each of them with its own distinctive graphic sign that characterizes it: a metal pipe, a water pipe, and a lightning bolt. All three villains were themselves victims of accidents at work, which no one cared about and which fomented anger in them. Anger that they decide to vent by robbing Ibyoo and hitting her with a brick.


When she arrives at the hospital, the little girl is treated with stitches, but she notices that in addition to the injury, her right eye is not working as it should. The doctors simply explain the problem as short-sightedness, but that’s not exactly how it is, and Ibyoo begins to see things she can’t explain, referring to them only as “rumor,” which represent not only the fruit of her imagination but also a different key to interpreting reality. Reality that Ibyoo relives through certain stages in the reworking of the wrong done to her: confusion, paranoia, curiosity, and finally awareness and acceptance of what happened. This last stage, particularly in the processing of the story, is described by the artist as “motherhood.” 

Ruth Burotte’s work

In one corner of the narrative -and in line with market trends that see more and more resin pop figurines and vinyl paints being advertised- is the mascot of Ruth Burotte’s imaginary world: ATOMISK, named after the company that owns everything. Made by Oliver Sanchez in polystorol – “the “American marble” as Sanchez smilingly defines it- on a large scale and based on a three-dimensional resin print made by Burotte, ATOMISK is a slightly creepy kid with a look that on closer inspection can even be cool. ATOMISK is the result of the need to escape  from an overstimulating society: a rather peculiar subject, apparently apathetic and with his mouth hidden by a scarf that does not make him very sociable because he is shy and reserved but in truth he possesses qualities hidden to people.  

The manga Mona Lisa

It is very interesting to see how this young artist highlights the dichotomy between the contemporary and the classic; between the good -hidden- and the bad. A dichotomy that takes shape not only, for example, in the “Mona Lisa manga” created in charcoal for Swampspace and surrounded by a baroque-style frame, but also in the contrast of the places represented in the works, in which both excerpts of cities and fragments of classical Japanese landscapes coexist. 

Burotte’s creative richness is also revealed through the points of view with which she approaches the narration of the protagonists: the narration of Ibyoo herself even passes through the mirror located in the service station for which she works. A sort of introspection that magnifies her sense of curiosity and approach to life. 

Ibyoo in the glass at the gas station

It is also very interesting the combination that Burotte makes of fantastic characters that draw their nature from reality but that she reworks in the form of manga as well as the use that she makes of typical comic expressions that she represents with the equivalent Japanese calligraphic signs, such as “BOOM” or “CRASH”. Her signature is also present on the works, using the initials of her maiden and married name -RBT, Ruth Burotte Tamfee- and placed in the classic stylized rectangular box typical of manga authors. 

Ruth Burotte’s signature

Although she is a multidisciplinary artist who combines digital art, graffiti, illustration and calligraphic strokes, Burotte shows a particular predilection for the fine arts which she reworks in the form of manga, street style and hip hop style. 

The elaboration of her style comes from the combination of childhood memories and the cues that the metropolis offers. 

Manga and anime remind the artist of when she was a child and used to watch Japanese TV cartoons -some of her favorites were Sailor Moon- or when her mother used to take her to the library to study and she used to read manga and draw them all the time. “Manga is illustration while anime is animation, usually taken from manga,” says the artist, making a distinction between the two.

Ibyoo, the protagonist of the story

Manga, anime and Japanese illustration in general, have fascinated her to the point of knowing their history and content, among her favorite artists is the cartoonist Inio Asano.

She then combined the style of Japanese manga with graffiti art -which in cities like Miami reigns supreme- and with hip-hop, which with Burotte is manifested above all in the way her characters dress, wearing casual clothes and the ever-present sneakers.

A Nike shopping  bag revisited by Ruth

The famous shoes, initially born with a sporty meaning, in addition to being now an integral part of the street style and to be a passion for the artist, have led her to collaborate with the multinational Adidas, with which she came into contact thanks to the videos posted on Instagram, where she made graphic reworkings of the sneakers to expand her portfolio. Adidas offered her a collaboration that allowed her to travel to Nuremberg, Germany, and London, Great Britain, where, in addition to studying the production chain, she created a campaign for which she represented the city of Miami for the P.O.D. SYSTEM project. “It was very cool” enthusiastically declared the artist who a few months later received a box with the shoes she created inside.

One of the Ruth Burotte character with the sneaker

So tenacious and sunny, it’s no surprise that Ruth Burotte, was the youngest artist to receive a commission from the Broward Public Art & Design program.  In fact, she was selected from several participants to design, fabricate and install several site-specific works of art to be applied to several traffic light cabinets scattered throughout the Broward County Municipal Utility District, in order to improve their aesthetics by transforming the traffic light cabinets into works of art.

The narrative section of Ruth Burotte’s solo show at the Swampspace

However, the works on display at Swampspace are not limited to the storytelling; there are others. These include the work created to honor the first responders who provided aid during the tragic event of Surfside in Miami Beach, in June of this year; a Nike shopping bag, revisited by the artist and many characters wearing the famous sneakers. Among them there are also those who wear the infamous MSCHF branded sneakers -initially in collaboration with Nike, which then disassociated itself from the project- injected with human blood (also available in a version with holy water and called Holy Spirit) and produced in a series of 666 copies, which have raised a lot of controversy about them and that according to Burotte are an extraordinary and brilliant marketing idea.

After the very stressful period of Miami Art Week of which the artist declares herself satisfied, she confesses to us that now it is time for new stories. Wishing you a prosperous future, we look forward to seeing you with new compelling stories, Ruth Burotte. 

(on the title: Ruth Burotte “SOLO, Not Alone” show at the Swampspace)

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