“You do one thing,” John Baldessari observed, “and that leads you to one thing and then another thing.”1 Baldessari is one of the artists included in the National Gallery’s recent exhibition of series produced by the Los Angeles printshop Gemini G.E.L., and his comment is a reminder that, at its most basic, the creative process can be understood as a series of sequential choices and actions. While serial production is nothing new (consider Francisco Goya’s 1799 Los Caprichos, William Hogarth’s 1735 A Rake’s Progress, or Albrecht Dürer’s 16th-century biblical series), in the 1960s it became a vital way to express the conceptual and formal concerns of Pop, Minimalist and Conceptual artists. Whether in the form of prints, sculptures, photographs or paintings, serial works destabilize our centuries-old belief in the autonomy of art objects. Comprehending a series requires time, patience and active perceptual and cognitive engagement, but given the wall space that complete series take up, opportunities to see them unabridged are exceedingly rare. “The Serial Impulse,” which mounted 17 important series in their illuminating entirely, is the remarkable, welcome and eye-opening exception.
- “The Serial Impulse: Introduction,” National Gallery of Art, accessed 22 November 2015, http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/features/the-serial-impulse.html.