Inspired by the painting Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (1987) held in the Mudam Collection, this monographic survey revisits the first decade of Peter Halley’s career. Set within the context of a prolific period of painting and critical writing, the exhibition will trace the development of Halley’s singular vocabulary, examining the ideological foundations of the distinct pictorial language for which the artist is known. Assembling over thirty paintings from public and private collections, it will present a selection of iconic works alongside previously unseen drawings, sketches and notes.
After studying at Yale and in New Orleans in the late 1970s Halley returned to New York in 1980, taking up residence in the East Village of Manhattan. In the same year he painted his first images of confinement, re-deploying the language of geometric abstraction in response to physical and bureaucratic environments. Radically re-thinking the symbolic terrain of modernism, Halley deconstructed the language of abstraction and the square. These were re-imagined not as utopian sources of liberation, but as dystopian symbols of the regulation of physical and social space and the impact of technology on contemporary life.
Working in the era of the advent of Internet that saw the mass adoption of personal computers, he developed a pictorial system of geometric icons that he described as ‘prisons’, ‘cells’ and ‘conduits’ to explore themes of enclosure, isolation and connection. Adopting non-traditional materials such as Roll-A-Tex – a paint additive that provides a readymade texture – and Day-Glo fluorescent colours, he evoked a pervasive mechanisation of the human touch with the former and referenced the presence of technology in the ersatz postmodern environment with the latter. Reflecting on this seminal period in his essay, ‘Geometry and the Social’ (1990) Halley wrote:
I wanted to draw attention to this geometricised, rationalised, quantified w…
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