Active for over seventy-five years, prolific New Jersey artist W. Carl Burger has produced an extensive body of work in an impressively wide range of mediums, including oil, watercolor, graphite, ink, acrylic, conté crayon, colored pencil, and collage.
This exhibition features the vivid, abstract-expressionist canvases for which he is renowned, along with lesser-known, masterfully-executed figurative and representational works on paper, all drawn from the Morris Museum’s permanent collection. In 2000, Burger donated his archives and over 400 pieces to the Museum, making this one of the largest repositories of his work. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of his generous gift.
Carl Burger: Mastery of the Medium celebrates a lifetime dedicated to artistic investigation through thirteen oil-on-canvas paintings and thirty-two works on paper dating from 1944 to 2012. In 2001, the Morris Museum presented the exhibition W. Carl Burger: A Retrospective, highlighting the artist’s activity over the previous half-century. In the following decades, two other exhibitions—W. Carl Burger: The Urge to Paint and W. Carl Burger: Spheres of Influence—were also organized to further showcase the breadth of his work. This sustained interest in Burger lies in his fervent output and his passion for creativity.
In the context of the New Jersey State lockdown and home sheltering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum looked inward for curatorial inspiration from our permanent collections. A timely exhibition narrative emerged—one that links the versatility and enduring strength of W. Carl Burger’s artistic activity of over three-quarters of a century with the uncertainty of recent events. Although Burger’s story has been partially told before, as we search for stability in this period of insecurity we can find solace in an artist who has not only lived through times of historical and cultural distress, but also adapted and found beauty within the dissonance.
At the age of 94, what remains constant is the artist’s indomitable spirit, the virtuosity of his skills, and the zeal with which he masters different mediums. During times as unprecedented as these we can only hope to find encouragement with the same determination and perseverance as W. Carl Burger.