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‘Central Perk’ Artist Sues SoHo Gallery

MANHATTAN (CN) - The graphic designer whose works were used on the sets of "Friends," Absolut Vodka ads and the 76th Academy Awards filed federal copyright claims against a SoHo gallery allegedly dedicated to his Pop Art-inspired aesthetic.

Santa Monica-based Burton Morris, who calls himself a "world-renowned artist" in his Nov. 14 complaint against Pop International Galleries, draws inspiration for some of his artwork from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

The New York Times noted in one critique, however, that Morris mines the subject matter with little of the consumerist critiques or cultural commentaries evinced by his Pop Art muses.

Instead, Morris wrote in an artistic statement accompanying a recent exhibition that his work "celebrates beauty and life while projecting an optimistic sense of high energy and style," Times critic Benjamin Genocchio wrote.

Opining that his work came "dangerously close to commercial art," Genocchio added that this was "perfectly understandable" because Morris continued to work as a "successful graphic designer."

Pop International's SoHo gallery has carried Morris' work since 2002, and its website still contains a video introducing Morris among the "younger generation" of Pop artists in their collection.

Now 50 years old, Morris was a newborn at the movement's height in 1964.

The complaint Morris filed Friday says he terminated his relationship with the gallery last year with a demand for the money he was allegedly owed and the return of his unsold artwork.

The gallery owed him $14,500 for "Wonder Women Light Blue," "Coffee Break Blue Coffee Cup," "Coffee Break Yellow Coffee Cup" and "I Want You," he claims.

It allegedly docked $12,446.42 on bogus "marketing, storage and shipping expenses."

Morris seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief against the gallery for copyright infringement, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

He is represented by New York-based lawyer Bonnie Mohr.

Pop International has not returned a request for comment.

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