Burton Morris

An American born artist of Pennsylvanian (Pittsburgh) extraction, Burton Morris is a pop art wunderkind of distinctive style whose works have adorned the corridors of mainstream culture for the better part of 30 years’ time. A product of Carnegie Mellon University, Morris’ fine arts training at said university would equip him well for an early-career stint in the advertising space, the latter proving a professional whetstone against which the gifted artist would sharpen his visionary edge.

Following his time in the corporate marketing realm, Burton Morris would took his act solo and established eponymous studios in 1990. The venture, which hinged almost solely upon Morris’ creative genius and unimpeachable work ethic, would prove commercially fruitful, creatively fulfilling, and popularly relevant throughout the final decade of the 20th century.

During this time, a number of household name products and national institutions would turn to Burton Morris for the creation of imagery which channeled sleek elegance and visual boldness, hallmarks of 1990s Americana. Thus, in nigh subliminal fashion, Morris’ visual stamp became an almost ubiquitous touchstone for an aesthetic sensibility which firmly appealed to consumer tastes and cultural sensibilities.

Of importance to a proper understanding of Morris’ place in the pantheon of 20th and 21st century artists is the added context provided by both the era in which he came of age and the sociocultural construct and circumstances in which he realized the potential manifest within himself.

Born at the tail-end of the “baby boomer” generation, Morris would experience adolescence and young-adulthood in a time characterized by immense material prosperity and omnipresent commercial advertisement (largely via television) the likes of which no previous generation had seen. Furthermore, as an ever more pluralistic popular culture and the messaging of its consumerist interlopers took root within the American psyche, individuals of artistic talent began, predictably, to respond in those ways both unique to and expected of the creative class.

In this regard, Burton Morris has been no exception; in fact, his flagrant embrace of aggressively stylized aesthetics has rendered Morris an artist of emblematic importance to the pop art genre. The useful intersection of popular culture immersion, fine arts education, and inherent creative boldness rendered Morris’ particular style of pop art renderings especially ideal for the channeling of late-20th century cultural tastes and inclinations.

Burton Morris Artwork

Sharp, saturated, overwhelmingly bright use of brilliantly contrasting colors has been a consistent of staple of Burton Morris’ art since first his commercial works made their national debut. This style aligned rather well with (and in many ways came to define) the glossy veneer-aesthetic of product rendering, as in his famous Absolut Vodka images, and of consciously hued situation comedies (Morris’ works were often used on the set of Friends) which tended to showcase pop art in ways both self-referential and self-effacing. For these reasons, edition prints of Burton Morris’ artwork invoke feelings of nostalgia for an era not so much distant as widely longed for.

But the work of Burton Morris extends beyond the 30-minute window of a given situation comedy or those 30-second spots of commercial advertisements by which such comedies are punctuated. Morris has also produced an impressively extensive line of museum works which collectively channel late-20th century popular culture iconography and testaments to so-called prosperity Americana.

Though rendered in such ways as to suggest a tongue in cheek spirit, Morris’ works lean more towards the reverent than one might expect. Despite (if not because of) the socio-cultural epoch into which he was born, the genius apparent in many a Burton Morris work is the celebratory sentiment which inhabits the image without compromising that element of levity which first rendered Morris a sought after creative commodity.

Occasions and organizations ranging from the Academy Awards to the United States Olympic Team have seen the commissioning of the creative mind of Burton Morris towards the end of enriching their respective proceedings with memorable images. In the former instance, one of the Oscars’ more recognizable and pleasantly self-aware signature illustrations was born of Morris’ artistic intuition. Likewise, innumerable charities have sought to encapsulate the worthy aims of their respective causes via thoughtful and suitably sentimental imagery.

Morris has proven himself time and again an exceptionally ideal artist for the production of philanthropically-themed art, which comports well with the guiding sense of charity which has long guided his public image. An element of sincerity permeates Morris’ larger body of work; a remarkable and welcome congruity.