Peter Halley is an American artist, writer, and leading figure of Neo-Conceptualism, best known for his geometric Day Glo paintings of the 1980s and 90s, which explore the organisation of contemporary life through systems and networks.Read More
Theoretically minded, Halley sought to repurpose the language of art-historical abstraction to represent what he called the complete geometrification of social space under technological and industrial developments of the late 20th century.
Influenced by the geometry of the surrounding city and the French poststructuralist theory shaping intellectual discourse in New York, Halley developed a formal iconography that defined postmodern subjectivity through networks of exchange and regulation.
Composed of squares representing prisons or cells connected via conduits, Halley's paintings were often rendered in fluorescent Day Glo paint, with surface texture produced by a commercial surfacing tool used in suburban homes and motels.
Red Cell with Conduit (1982)
Red Cell with Conduit (1982) invokes this systematisation of information, social life, and the self. A bright red field of colour separated into a textured cell with a conduit beneath, it recalls the flow of electricity or the transportation of goods.
Mohammad Salemy explains in Ocula Magazine: 'Despite being abstract, the repetition of visual elements across Halley's paintings—like cells, which appear as monochromatic squares or rectangular smokestacks—operate as concrete units of meaning.'
'Functioning like words, these visual codes create associations that fit into and construct a self-contained world with its own logic.'
Using commercial painting materials and high-keyed colour, Halley invoked pop cultural imagery such as fluorescent street signs or New Wave pop aesthetics, declaring art-making in the postmodern era as divorced from the representation of the natural world.
In 1986, Halley was featured in an exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery, New York. The show marked a departure from the stylistically dominant Neo-Expressionism, heralded by artists such as Julian Schnabel and Enzo Cucchi, and distinguished Halley as a central figure in the emergent Neo-Geo or Neo-Expressionist movement.
In the 1990s, Halley's work developed in response to the digital revolution. In 1993, Halley produced Superdream Mutation, a web-based print that is thought to be the first artwork made exclusively for online viewing and sale.
Branching out into digital software, printmaking, and comic-book influenced imagery, Halley also began to stage site-specific installations. These included an installation at the Dallas Museum of Art in 1995, which employed a mixture of painting, wall-sized flow charts, and digitally produced wallpaper prints.
Halley has also produced a number of permanent public works, including a large painting at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas (2005). In 2011, he exhibited Judgement Day, a series of digital prints at the 54th Venice Biennale, and in 2018, staged a large-scale presentation at the Lever House, New York.
As a writer, Peter Halley produced numerous essays between the 1980s and the early 2000s. Like his paintings, these interrogated the relationship between the individual and larger social structures, and included theoretical essays on art, such as 'Essence and Model' (1988).
Peter Halley taught at Columbia University, New York, and the University of California, Los Angeles. From 2002 to 2011, he served as the Director of Graduate Studies in Painting and Printmaking at the Yale University School of Art.
Peter Halley's works are held in collections worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Tate, London; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Peter Halley's work have been exhibited worldwide.
Between 1991 and 1992, a major retrospective of his work travelled across Europe, stopping at Musée d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux; Musée d'Art Contemporain, Lausanne; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Solo exhibitions include Mudam Luxembourg (2023); Karma, New York and Los Angeles (2023); Modern Art, London (2022); Dallas Contemporary (2021); Sperone Westwater, New York (2018); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2016); Musée d'Art Moderne, Saint Étienne Métropole (2014); Museum Folkwang, Essen (1998); and Museum of Modern Art, New York (1997).
Select group exhibitions include Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (all 2018); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (both 2015).
The artist currently lives and works in New York.
Alena Kavka | Ocula | 2021