Lawrence Alloway

Lawrence Alloway (London, 1926 - New York, January 2, 1990) was an English art critic and curator who worked in the United States from the 1960s. In the 1950s he was a leading member of the Independent Group in the UK and in the 1960s was an influential writer and curator in the US. He first used the term "mass popular art" in the mid 1950's and used the term Pop Art in the 1960s to indicate that art has a basis in the popular culture of its day and takes from it a faith in the power of images. [Topics in American Art since 1945, "Pop Art the words", pp.119-122, by Lawrence Alloway, copyright 1975 by W.W.Norton and Company, NYC ISBN 0-393-04401-7]


Early career and the Independent Group

Alloway started writing art reviews for "Art News and Reviews" in 1943. In his 1954 book "Nine Abstract Artists" he promoted the Constructivist artists that emerged in Britain after the Second World War: Robert Adams, Terry Frost, Adrian Heath, Anthony Hill, Roger Hilton, Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Victor Pasmore and William Scott.

Alloway's theory of art reflecting the concrete materials of modern life gave way to an interest in mass-media and consumerism. Alloway was a member of the Independent Group and lectured on his theory of a circular link between popular cultural "low art" and "high art". From 1955 to 1960 he was Assistant Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, organising two landmark exhibitions of American Art. In 1956 Alloway contributed to organising the exhibition "This Is Tomorrow" and reviewing that show, and other works he had seen on a trip to the U.S., in a 1958 article, first used the term "mass popular art".

Career in the U.S.

In 1961 Alloway moved to New York with his wife, realist painter Sylvia Sleigh. He was appointed senior curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from 1961 until 1966. In 1963 he organized the pop art show, "Six Painters and the Object". In 1966 he curated the influential "Systemic Painting" exhibition that showcased Geometric abstraction in the American art world via Minimal art, Shaped canvas, and Hard-edge painting. Alloway was an ardent supporter of Abstract expressionism and of American Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, and Andy Warhol. In 1967/68 he joined the Art department faculty as a lecturer at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where McHale and Buckminster Fuller were also on staff at the SIU Design Department. In the 1970s he wrote for "The Nation" and "Artforum" and lectured at the State University of New York.

In 1966 Lawrence Alloway also coined the term "Systemic art", to describe a type of abstract art characterized by the use of very simple standardized forms, usually geometric in character, either in a single concentrated image or repeated in a system arranged according to a clearly visible principle of organization. ["Systemic art." The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Ed. Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 2004. 2006. 19 Mar, 2008 [ systemic-art] ]

In his own words

Concerning the origins of the term Pop Art in his own words Alloway said: "The term, originated in England by me, as a description of mass communications, especially, but not exclusively, visual ones." [Topics in American Art since 1945, "Pop Art the words", p.119 by Lawrence Alloway, copyright 1975 by W.W.Norton and Company, NYC ISBN 0-393-04401-7] In a footnote to his essay "Pop Art the words", he goes on to say: "The first published appearance of the terms that I know is: Lawrence Alloway, "The Arts and the Mass Media," "Architectural Design," February, 1958, London. Ideas on Pop Art were discussed by Reyner Banham, Theo Crosby, Frank Cordell, Toni del Renzio, Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, John McHale, Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison and Peter Smithson, sculptor William Turnbull, and myself."

However there are contradictory recollections as to the origin of the term: according to John McHale's son his father first coined the term in 1954 in conversation with Frank Cordell, and the term was then used in Independent Group discussions by mid 1955. [ [] ] . Alloway used the term 'mass popular art' in his oft quoted 1958 article but he did not use the specific term "Pop Art". [ [ The Arts and the Mass Media] Lawrence Alloway,]


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  • Lawrence Alloway — (* 17. September 1926 in London; † 2. Januar 1990 in New York) war ein englischer Kunstkritiker und Kurator, der seit den 1960er Jahren in den Vereinigten Staaten lebte und arbeitete. In den 1950ern war er ein einflussreicher Autor der britischen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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