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Function, Form, and Fantasy: Ceramics from the Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger Collection

May 7 - August 14, 2016


"Function, Form, and Fantasy: Ceramics from the Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger Collection" will be on view May 7 through August 14 at the Flint Institute of Arts. Drawn from the collection of Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger, this exhibition offers a unique look at the recent history of ceramics -- from the mid-20th century to present day -- highlighting the diversity of styles and intense creativity of expression in the medium of clay.

The exhibition is divided into three sections that explore this exemplary collection

In this section, the ceramic works are traditional forms or shapes (vase, bowl, or plate) that are essentially functional, even if their techniques are experimental.
Free of the need to make a useful or "utilitarian" object, ceramicists could instead experiment with the properties of clay and the chemistry of glazes. Using a sculptural approach, ceramicists often began with familiar shapes but manipulated the forms so that the original shape is no longer recognizable.
While some ceramicists used this new freedom from function to push the possibilities of form, shape, and color, others ventured into figuration, narrative subject matter, and manipulation of historical and traditional forms. Using the term "fantasy," this section encompasses a diversity of artistic approaches, from the literal and comical to the surreal and futuristic.

The ceramics in Function, Form, and Fantasy range from bold, expressionistic forms to simple, elegant motifs, from sizes smaller than 3-inches tall to larger-than-life. The works by such well-known ceramicists, including Peter Voulkos, Viola Frey, Adrian Saxe, and Patti Warashina, are both thought-provoking and mysterious, blurring the lines between craft and fine art. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available.

Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger have been collecting contemporary ceramic works of art since the 1970s. They were inspired by the beautiful forms, colors, and innovative techniques used to create the artworks. Mrs. Burger has ties to Flint, having enjoyed ceramic classes at the Flint Institute of Arts in her youth.

Today, the Burgers reside in Florida and together have built an impressive art collection using the knowledge they have gained through studying and visiting exhibitions, galleries, studios, private collections, and taking studio classes. Since 2005, Dr. and Mrs. Burger have donated nearly 250 works of art to the Flint Institute of Arts, including more than 200 ceramic works and 40 works on paper.

The Members Preview of Function, Form and Fantasy was held on May 6, 2016, featuring a lecture by contemporary ceramic authority Dr. Judith S. Schwartz, Professor in the Department of Art and Art Professions at New York University. Following the lecture, guests had the opportunity to meet Robert and Deanna Burger, view the collection, and attend a reception.

(above: Adrian Saxe, American, b. 1943, Torso Jar with Oryx Finial, 1985, Porcelain and Stoneware, 22 1/2 x 10 3/8 x 5 5/8 inches. Collection of Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger)


(above: Richard Notkin, American, b. 1948, Heart Teapot: Ironclad Hostage II, 2009, Stoneware, 6 3/8 x 10 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches. Collection of Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger)

(above: Sara Lisch, American, b. 1966, Lion's Journey, 2002, Stoneware, 21 3/4 x 18 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches. Collection of Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger)


To view the checklist for the exhibition, please click here.

To view an illustrated checklist, please click here.

To view the Introductory wall panel, please click here, for the Function panel here, for the Form panel here and for the Fantasy panel here.

The checklist and wall panel texts are courtesy of Flint Institute of Arts.


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For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

For definitions of checklists and wall panel texts, please see Definitions in Museums Explained.

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