Peter Halley

Peter Halley (1953, New York, NY, USA).
Lives and works in New York, NY, USA

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 start of his artistic career, Peter Halley has responded to the intricate and expansive structure of the urban environment. His paintings, drawings, and Kodaliths depict the city’s systems of movement and communication through diagrammatic representations. Employing a hermetic language of geometric abstraction derived from the works of Kazimir Malevich, Josef Albers, and Barnett Newman, Halley skillfully reimagined their utopian modernist impulse as an embodiment of isolation and confinement. He has developed a concise vocabulary of architectural symbols, which he designates as “prisons” and “cells.” These icons are interconnected by straight lines known as “conduits.” Through this simplified vocabulary, Halley aims to convey the regimentation of the spaces we occupy and how they are shaped 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 rose to prominence as an artist in the mid-1980s, alongside a group of Neo-Conceptualist artists who initially exhibited in New York’s East Village. This group included influential figures such as Jeff Koons, Haim Steinbach, Meyer Vaisman, and Ashley Bickerton. Collectively, they became known as Neo-Geo and Neo-Conceptualist artists. As part of this movement, Halley and his contemporaries utilized irony and pastiche to subvert and comment on the prevailing structural issues of the time. Drawing inspiration from Conceptual Art, they created paintings and sculptures that functioned as a collection of visual symbols, referencing artists and significant moments in postwar art history.

In the 1990s, Peter Halley started producing site-specific installations for museums, galleries, and public spaces that actively engage with the surrounding architecture. His installations incorporate various forms of imagery and media, including painting, fiberglass relief sculpture, wall-size flowcharts, and digitally generated wallpaper.

Halley’s artistic philosophy serves as the foundation for the Neo-conceptualist (Neo-Geo) movement. Through his works, he offers a critical examination of the mechanization and commercialization of the modern world. By employing metaphorical representations of society, Halley explores themes such as the social landscape, human isolation, and connectivity. The seemingly simplistic diagram structures within his paintings serve as a vehicle for dramatizing political and social aspects of life.

In addition to his visual artistic endeavors, Halley works on essays on art and culture in 1981. This diversification of his creative output allowed him to articulate his ideas beyond visual representations. A collection of his essays titled “Peter Halley: Collected Essays 1981-1987” was published by Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in 1988, further establishing Halley as a significant voice in the art world.

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 represented 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)

Peter Halley

  • Peter Halley - Shadow Conspiracy

    Shadow Conspiracy
    Acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, metallic acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on two adjoined canvases
    182,9 x 243,8 cm

    Peter Halley, International With Monument Gallery, New York, April 1986
    1987 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Mar-June 1987
    Horn of Plenty, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Jan-Feb 1989

    Carrol Dunham and Peter Halley, Margulies Taplin Gallery, Miami, 1997
    1987 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, p. 59, illustrated in color
    Horn of Plenty, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, 1989, p. 99, illustrated in color

  • Two Cells with Circulating Conduit

    Two Cells with Circulating Conduit
    Acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, Flashe, and Roll-a-Tex on two adjoined canvases. 162.6 x 264.2 cm / 64 x 104 in.

    New York, International With Monument Gallery, Peter Halley, April 1986
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1987 Biennial Exhibition, March - June 1987, p. 59, illustrated in color
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Horn of Plenty, January - February 1989, p. 99, illustrated in color
    Conduits. Paintings from the 1980s, Mudam Luxembourg, March - October, 2023

    Cara Jordan and Clément Dirié, Eds., Peter Halley: Paintings of the 1980s, The Catalogue Raisonné, Zurich 2019, p. 101, illustrated in color
    Jerry Saltz, Ed., Beyond Boundaries: New York's New Art, New York 1986, p. 28, illustrated in color
    Hal Foster, “Signs Taken for Wonders,” Art in America 74, June 1986, p. 87, illustrated in color (incorrectly illustrated)
    Joshua Decter, “Peter Halley”, Arts Magazine, Summer 1986, p. 110, illustrated in color
    Eleanor Heartney, “Neo-Geo Storms New York,” New Art Examiner, 14 September 1986, p. 28, illustrated
    Susan Kandel, "The Non-Site of Theory," Frieze, May 1995, p. 30, illustrated in color
    Cory Reynolds, Ed., Peter Halley: Maintain Speed, New York 2000, pp. 118, 197, 199 and 201, illustrated in color
    Amy Brandt, Interplay: Neoconceptual Art of the 1980s, Cambridge 2014, pp. 36 and 145, illustrated in color
    H. H. Arnason, History of Modern Art, Boston 2013, p. 683, illustrated in color
    Joshua Decter, Art Is a Problem, Zurich 2014, p. 108, illustrated
    Richard Milazzo, Skewed: Ruminations on the Writings and Works of Peter Halley, Modena 2016, p. 59, illustrated in color

  • Peter Halley - Cartoon Network

    Cartoon Network
    Acrylic, metallic acrylic, pearlescent acrylic, Roll-a-Tex on canvas
    259 x 315 cm

    Peter Halley. Unseen Paintings: 1997 – 2002, From the Collection of Gian Enzo Sperone, Sperone Westwater, New York, 2 Nov – 22 Dec 2018