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What Is Serial Art?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
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Serial art is a type of contemporary art in which several pieces are presented as a related group. A series of paintings or three-dimensional sculpture pieces can be classified as serial art when they share a common theme or technique. This type of art is sometimes categorized along with other pieces that are created according to the mathematical rules of modular constructivism. Various techniques used in serial art include those of op art, hard-edge painting, and systems art. Many serial art pieces also have variations in subject matter and media depending on different artists' ideas and points of view.

Several artists are known for their paintings that depict solid colored shapes arranged in intricate patterns. Successfully creating this kind of geometric abstraction generally takes some careful planning, as well as some working knowledge of mathematical concepts such as congruence. Painters who work with this subject matter often add adjoining shapes according to the rules of number theory. Many artists present these paintings in a series with variations in color and specific types of shapes. Hard-edged paintings are made with similar shape arrangements that normally change color abruptly without any transitional blending.

Some two-dimensional serial art pieces create optical illusions that can trick viewers' eyes and brains with the impression that they are looking at a three-dimensional picture. This kind of painting is known as op art in reference to these optical illusions. Many artists create op art with the underlying idea that surface appearances are not always what they seem.

Artists who create systems art sometimes apply basic scientific principles of systems theory to their work. This discipline draws connections between people and how they relate to one another as well as to the world at large. Serial systems art is a sub-category of the conceptual art movement that first began during the 1960s. Contemporary series of systems art can often incorporate digital mediums such as videography or electronic animation.

Many types of serial art follow principles of minimalism because they are made with the simplest elements possible that artists believe will still create a visual impact. A set of paintings made with solid blocks of color becomes a series when the artist varies the exact color, size, or number of color blocks. Many viewers find these types of paintings more interesting when the art is displayed as a series rather than a single piece. Some artists also apply these ideas to minimalist sculpture pieces made from materials such as ceramic clay or metal.

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Discussion Comments

By shell4life — On Jan 11, 2013

I did some serial art in college. My theme was my dog, and all three paintings were in black and white.

I did each one in a different style, though. The first one was full of shading, and the second one focused more on texture. The third was simply a white background with a black outline of my dog and her features.

They look really cool on the wall side by side. This was my favorite art class project.

By Oceana — On Jan 10, 2013

I like it when an artist uses three canvases and continues one image across all of them. I've seen several works that started with half a flower on one canvas and continued with the other half on the middle one. Then, the third one shared some more flowers with the second.

I'm sure you'd have to have the canvases pressed up against each other while painting in order to know exactly where to start. When you hang these paintings an inch or two apart from each other, you have to be pretty precise with lining them up horizontally, or the image will not have the same effect.

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