Systemic Painting

Systemic Painting

Lawrence Alloway
Published in 1966
68 pages, fully illustrated

This catalogue accompanies the 1966 exhibition Systemic Painting, organized by the influential art critic Lawrence Alloway. In his introductory essay Alloway identifies a field of increasingly popular geometric abstract paintings, artworks containing a simple, methodical, organization exploring repetition and pattern. The first to coin the phrase "Systemic Painting," Alloway discusses the flexibility of the term, which can encompass anything from Frank Stella's shaped canvases, Kenneth Noland's Color Field paintings, or the Hard-edge style defined by art historian Jules Langsner, to the simple, but detailed, repetition found within early Minimalist works by artists such as Jo Baer and Agnes Martin. In addition, the catalogue includes artist statements for each of the exhibiting artists, as well as a plate section illustrating selected works.


A system is an organized whole, the parts of which demonstrate some regularities. A system is not antithetical to the values suggested by such art world word-clusters as humanist, organic, and process. On the contrary, while the artist is engaged with it, a system is a process; trial and error, instead of being incorporated into the painting, occur off the canvas. The predictive power of the artist, minimized by the prestige of gestural painting, is strongly operative, from ideas and early sketches, to the ordering of exactly scaled and shaped stretchers and help by assistants.

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