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Morris Louis, Where, 252 x 362 cm. magna on canvas, 1960, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Louis was a prominent artist in the Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition.

Post-painterly abstraction is a term created by art critic Clement Greenberg as the title for an exhibit he curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1964, which subsequently travelled to the Walker Art Center and the Art Museum of Toronto (which later became the Art Gallery of Ontario).

Greenberg had perceived that there was a new movement in painting which derived from the abstract expressionism of the 1940s and 1950s but "favored openness or clarity" as opposed to the dense painterly surfaces of that painting style. The 31 artists in the exhibition included Walter Darby Bannard, Jack Bush, Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, Friedel Dzubas, Paul Feeley, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, Nicholas Krushenick, Alexander Liberman, Morris Louis, Arthur Fortescue McKay, Howard Mehring, Kenneth Noland, , Jules Olitski, Ray Parker, Frank Stella, and a number of other American and Canadian artists who were becoming well-known in the 1960s.

Among the prior generation of contemporary artists, Barnett Newman has been singled out as one who anticipated "some of the characteristics of post-painterly abstraction."[1]

As painting continued to move in different directions, powered by the spirit of innovation of the time, the term "post-painterly abstraction", which had obtained some currency in the 1960s, was gradually supplanted by minimalism, hard-edge painting, lyrical abstraction and color field painting.

Post-painterly abstraction
Hard-edge painting color field painting Washington Color School Abstract expressionism Shaped canvas
Meschers EK 42 (8355).jpg 'Bridge' by Kenneth Noland, 1964..jpg Bush Oil.jpg BlackGreyBeat.jpg Frank Stella's 'Harran II', 1967.jpg
Ellsworth Kelly, 1951 Kenneth Noland, 1964 Jack Bush, 1968 Gene Davis, 1964 Sam Francis, 1968 Frank Stella, 1967
Greenberg's innovative exhibition of post-painterly abstraction, was both influential and timely. The exhibition ushered in a new era in American abstract painting that signalled a new direction; following the triumph of the New York School. Eventually leading to the developments of minimal art, primary structures, postminimalism, lyrical abstraction and various new directions in abstract art. The innovations in abstract painting of the 1960s along with the pop art movement led the way to the contemporary art of the 21st century.


  1. ^ Edward Lucie-Smith, Lives of the Great Twentieth Century Artists, New York, Rizzoli, 1986; p. 257.

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