Art Term

Serial art

Serial art is art that adheres to a strict set of rules to determine its composition or to determine a series of compositions

Sol LeWitt, ‘Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off’ 1972
Sol LeWitt
Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off 1972
Tate
© The estate of Sol LeWitt
Andy Warhol, ‘Black Bean’ 1968
Andy Warhol
Black Bean 1968
Tate
© 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London
Josef Albers, ‘Study for Homage to the Square: Departing in Yellow’ 1964
Josef Albers
Study for Homage to the Square: Departing in Yellow 1964
Tate
© 2017 Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London

There are three basic assumptions that define the making of serial art: that it follows a systematically predetermined process; the order (rules used to create the artwork) takes precedence over the execution or making of the work; that the completed work is self-exhausting.

Some serial artworks are modular and are based on the repetition of a standard unit, like Andy Warhol’s soup cans or Josef Albers’s coloured squares, while others offer variations on a theme, like Sol LeWitt’s Serial Project No.1 which showed all the different combinations of an open and closed cube.

Serial art has its roots in conceptualism and minimalism and gained popularity in America and Europe in the 1960s as a way for artists to create art without resorting to personal expression. (In the 1960s artists began to challenge the assumption that their role was to create special kinds of unique art object, in an attempt to bypass the increasing commodification of the art world).