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English art critic, professor, and curator Lawrence Alloway (b. 1926, London; d. 1990, New York) brought a unique curatorial vision to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the early 1960s. In contrast to founding director and curator Hilla Rebay’s inclination toward the spiritual in art, Alloway exercised a strong, almost exclusively modernist vision while at the museum. Credited as the first to coin the term “mass popular art,” which quickly shortened to “Pop art,” Alloway was a critical supporter of emerging postwar American art. Prior to his history with the Guggenheim, Alloway was a member of the Independent Group (1952–55), an assemblage of young artists and art historians dedicated to the pursuit of understanding modern visual culture, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, where he curated several exhibitions and served as assistant director from 1955 to 1960.
Alloway joined the Guggenheim as senior curator in 1961 after teaching briefly at Bennington College in Vermont. While at the Guggenheim, Alloway organized mid-career retrospectives and memorial exhibitions for Abstract Expressionists and Art Informel artists, as well as themed exhibitions focused on Pop art and early Minimalist works. In March 1963 his introductory exhibition Six Painters and the Object opened to the public, and this seminal exhibition—devoted to bringing six American Pop artists to the forefront, and to establishing a framework for the movement—was met with great success. After closing at the Guggenheim, the show continued on to seven additional museums and expanded to include West Coast Pop artists.
A few years after the success of Six Painters and the Object, Alloway assembled an exhibition devoted to the emerging forms of American abstract painting, and titled the show after the trend: Systemic Painting (1966). Displaying works identified as Color Field painting, Hard-edge painting, and Cool-Art, Systemic Painting called attention to the planar, geometric, and calculated works that would soon be acknowledged as the two-dimensional companions to Minimalist sculpture.
Following his departure from the museum in 1966, Alloway turned to an editorial post at The Nation, began writing for Artforum, co-founded Art Criticism with fellow critic Donald Kuspit, and returned to teaching, joining the State University of New York, Stony Brook, as a professor of art history.
Contributions by Lawrence Alloway and Barnett Newman
Published in 1966
44 pages , fully illustrated
Check out the Findings Blog to view an archival photograph of Lawrence Alloway installing his exhibition Systemic Painting in 1966.