Peter Halley’s paintings are the closest schematic we’re likely to find for the controlling circuitry of the twentieth and twenty-first century.
New York, NY
BA, Yale University
MFA, University of New Orleans
Heterotopia I, Magazzini del Sale, with Flash Art Magazine and the Accademia di Venezia (installation), 2019
New York, New York, The Lever House Art Collection, New York (installation), 2018
The Schirn Ring, Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt (installation, catalogue)
Geometry of the Absurd: Recent Paintings by Peter Halley, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (catalogue), 2015
Peter Halley, Paintings of the 90s, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (installation, catalogue) 1998
New Concepts in Printmaking I, Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation), 1997
Drawings 1991–1995, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY (catalogue); travelled to Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, St. Louis; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Kohn Turner Gallery, Los Angeles, 1995
Encounters 6, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas (installation, booklet), 1995
Paintings 1989–1992, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA (catalogue), 1992
Peter Halley: Oeuvres de 1982 á 1991, CAPCMusée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France (catalogue); travelled to FAE Musée d'Art Contemporain, Pully/Lausanne (catalogue); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (catalogue); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1991
Peter Halley: Recent Paintings, Krefelder Kunstmuseen, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany (catalogue); travelled to Maison de la Culture et de la Communication de Saint-Etienne, France; Institute of Contemporary Art, London (booklet), 1989
Peter Halley: Post-Classical Paintings and Drawings, P.S. 122, New York (installation), 1980
Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA, 1978
PaperCity invited Beverly Acha, artist and assistant professor of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, to interview Peter Halley to get to the heart of his new work on view at Dallas Contemporary. Acha and Halley met in 2010 at Yale where Peter headed the Painting and Printmaking MFA program, and Beverly was a student.
In the 1980s, the artist Peter Halley helped ignite New York’s East Village art scene alongside contemporaries like Jeff Koons and Ashley Bickerton. In 1996, he co-founded the influential arts and culture magazine Index. And between 2002 and 2011, he served as the director of Yale’s M.F.A. painting program. But he is best known for his often gargantuan neon abstract canvases, which he has made in subtly varying forms for four decades (a show of his recent works is currently on view at Dallas Contemporary). Comprising cell-like shapes connected by “conduits,” his paintings are at once luminous and austere, with textured surfaces he laboriously builds up using layers of acrylic frequently mixed with Roll-a-Tex, a surfacing material for houses. A native New Yorker, he works mostly from a 5,000-square-foot studio in West Chelsea, a former industrial building filled with buckets of Day-Glo paint and bins of splattered rollers. But his studio in Connecticut, a modest two-story house wrapped in black-stained shingles that he bought and renovated in 2010, and where he now spends a few days each week, is a very different kind of work space. It serves as both a refuge for making the 17-by-22-inch studies on which his large-scale paintings are based — a meditative process he likens to composing music but with colors instead of chords — and as a memory palace of sorts, filled with furniture and objects from each chapter of his life.
Art in America
A central fixture in New York’s conceptualist Neo-Geo scene of the 1980s, Peter Halley’s work all but disappeared from the city’s galleries by the start of the 1990s, and for the subsequent decade was exhibited chiefly abroad. Sperone Westwater’s recent show comprised ten paintings Halley made between the late ’90s and the early 2000s that are owned by Gian Enzo Sperone and had never been shown before. Pictorial metaphors of incarceration—and what they evoke about our confinement to capitalist conformism—established the artist’s conceptual bona fides, and, indeed, the works on view featured his trademark “cell” and “prison” motifs: squares or rectangles rendered in bright monochromes or with barlike stripes across them. Two of the works, Two Prisons and Red Cell over Horizontal Red Prison (both 2004), displayed symmetrical stacks of these forms, but the others featured more compelling off-center geometries.