Peter Halley (1953, New York, NY, USA).
Lives and works in New York, NY, USA
A true contemporary master and one of the most emblematic artists of his generation, Peter Halley is recognized in the history of contemporary painting as the legitimate heir of American abstractionism.
From the very beginning of his art career, Peter Halley has responded to the complexity and scale of the city’s structure, diagramming the city’s systems of movement and communication in his paintings, drawings and Kodaliths. Employing a hermetic language of geometric abstraction borrowed from the works of Kazimir Malevich, Josef Albers and Barnett Newman, Halley transformed their utopian modernist impulse into an expression of isolation and confinement.
Halley developed a simple vocabulary of architectural icons that he labeled ’prisons’ and ’cells,’ linked with straight lines labeled ’conduits.’ Through this simple vocabulary, he sought to express the regimentation of the spaces we inhabit and how they are formed by forces beyond our control.
In 1981, Halley started to use fluorescent Day Glo paint, the eerie glow of which mimicked the light of the recently introduced LED screen, and Roll-a-Tex, a powdered paint additive used to create the “popcorn” textured interior wall treatments that were ubiquitous in newly built suburban condos of the time. Halley’s formal experimentation through the decade was driven by a tension between his use of purist geometric form and his embrace of these commercial materials.
Halley came to prominence as an artist in the mid-1980s, as part of the generation of Neo-Conceptualist artists that first exhibited in New York’s East Village that included Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Meyer Vaisman and Ashley Bickerton. These artists became identified more broadly as Neo-Geo and Neo-Conceptualist. Neo-conceptualists used irony and pastiche to subvert and comment on structural issues of the time; they drew from Conceptual Art to create paintings and sculptures that operated as a set of pictorial signs referencing artists and moments in postwar art history.
In the 1990s, Halley started to produce site-specific installations for museums, galleries and public spaces that interact with the surrounding architecture. His installations mix imagery and media such as painting, fiberglass relief sculpture, wall-size flowcharts and digitally generated wallpaper.
Halley’s philosophy is the basis for the Neo-conceptualist (Neo-Geo) movement. His works are a critical analysis of the mechanization and commercialization of the modern world. Seeing the metaphor of our society, Halley describes the social landscape, human isolation and connectivity in the artist’s works. Simple diagram structures in his paintings become a means of dramatizing political and social life.
Alongside the development of his visual language, Halley also began to write essays on art and culture in 1981. A collection of his essays, “Peter Halley: Collected Essays 1981-1987,” was published by Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in 1988.
In 1996, Halley and curator and writer Bob Nickas co-founded Index, a magazine inspired by Andy Warhol’s Interview that featured interviews with people in various creative fields.
Halley served as the Director of Graduate Studies in Painting and Printmaking at the Yale University School of Art from 2002 to 2011.
The artist’s works were included in the Sao Paolo Biennale, the Whitney Biennale and the 54th Venice Biennale and are present in museums and art institutions such as:
Musee d’Art Contemporain (Bordeaux, France)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain)
Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Des Moines Art Center (Des Moines, IA, USA)
Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, TX, USA)
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (New York, NY, USA)
Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (Kitakyushu, Japan)
Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany)
Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown, OH, USA)
Museum of Modern Art (St. Etienne, France)
Museum of Art in Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA, USA)
Schirn Kunsthall (Frankfurt, Germany)