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PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)

 
Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life. Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life.
Eulogy (Commission)2004159 x 72 x 4 in.(403.86 x 182.88 cm) acrylic on canvas
Provenance
McClain Gallery
Private Collection, Texas
Heather James Fine Art, California
Brightly colored geometric paintings by Peter Halley address the rigid organization of social space through visual representations of cells and conduits. Eulogy (Commission), a 2004 piece at a grand scale, presents the neon-colored forms that characterize his work. The piece incorporates Roll-a-Tex, a material most often used as cheap surfacing for suburban homes or motels, a comment on the commoditization of domestic life.
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“I’d seen Roll-a-Tex on suburban walls and was fascinated by it, and Day-Glo had always seemed very spooky and unnatural to me.” – Peter Halley

History

Peter Halley emerged in the 1980s in the so-called Neo-Conceptual or Neo-Geometric Conceptualism (Neo-Geo) art movement. Eulogy is a monumental work that confronts us physically and conceptually. At first glance, Halley and this painting appear to be a continuation of abstraction in art history. There were the Concrete and Neo-Concrete artists in Europe and Latin America that used geometric shapes as investigations into logic, form, and shape. There were also the Minimalists whose industrial identity erased the hand of the artist to explore process and materiality.

And yet, Halley is not so much continuing these lines of thoughts as exploding them, questioning how geometry is not so much logical order but the very process in which society has been organized, shaping and systematizing structures of power. Some of the most striking parts of Halley’s work are the rigidly geometric shapes which he interprets as “prisons” or “cells”. Halley has been interested in the splintering and shaping of social spaces through the use of geometry and the flow of information with many of his ideas stemming from the French Post-Structuralists like Michel Foucault. One need only think of Foucault’s writings on the panopticon to think of the interplay between the geometricization of spaces and structures of power.

Even the materials used in the painting points to this deep inquiry into society and power. The textured surface is not a buildup of paint but Roll-a-Tex, a popular texturizer used on walls. Halley appears to ask us to consider the materials we use in construction and combined with his geometric shapes, the very architecture itself. Within this use of a commercial product, Halley opens up Postmodern ideas that questions a seemingly celebratory use of a banal and cheap product. In short, it is a subversive and ironic use of an item that promotes surface and appearance over substance.

Halley’s carefully chosen deployment of Day-Glo also bolsters the concepts underpinning his works. The Day-Glo both attracts us in its brightness, but it also hints at something deeper. Think of bright colors in animals – beautiful but a dire warning to consume at one’s own peril. Contrast this with the paintings of Frank Stella and Anne Truitt whose colors seem celebratory and affirming. The Roll-a-Tex and Day-Glo, seemingly wonderful inventions, are themselves prisons. As Halley once quipped, “It always intrigued me that the American image of freedom was being in a car on the ‘open road’… Well, there’s nothing much more restrictive that you could possibly do than drive a car on a highway where your body movements are limited to a few centimeters, where you have to vigilantly stay in your assigned lane or risk serious harm or death.”

More
  • Halley_History1
    Peter Halley in front of a mockup for his work
  • Halley_History2
    Peter Halley, “A Perfect World”, 1993, Day-Glo acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 90 x 147 3/16 in., The Broad, Los Angeles
  • Halley_History3
    Peter Halley, “The Extinction of Feeling”, 1991, 91 ¾ x 90 1/8 x 3 ¾ in., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • Halley_History4
    Frank Stella, “Hyena Stomp”, 1962, alkyd paint on canvas, 77 x 77 in., Tate Collection, London. Stella’s colors seem celebratory and affirming in comparison to Halley’s subversive use of bright color.
  • Halley_History5
    Peter Halley at an exhibition opening
“… I decided that for me modernism was really about skepticism, doubt, and questioning. Things that we now say are part of a postmodern sensibility.” – Peter Halley

Top Results at Auction

“Yellow Cell with Triple Conduit” (1986), acrylic, day-glo acrylic, and roll-a-tex on canvas, 77 x 77 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 07 March 2018 for $712,500 USD
“Yellow Cell with Triple Conduit” (1986), acrylic, day-glo acrylic, and roll-a-tex on canvas, 77 x 77 in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 07 March 2018 for $712,500 USD
“Dream Game” (1994), acrylic, metallic acrylic, pearlescent and roll-a-tex on canvas, 103 1/2 x 85 1/2 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 May 2008 for $457,000 USD
“Dream Game” (1994), acrylic, metallic acrylic, pearlescent and roll-a-tex on canvas, 103 1/2 x 85 1/2 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 May 2008 for $457,000 USD
“The Place” (1992), acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and Rolla-A-Tex on two attached canvases, 95 1/2 x 85 ¾ in. Sold at Christie’s London: 06 October 2017 for $450,418 USD
“The Place” (1992), acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and Rolla-A-Tex on two attached canvases, 95 1/2 x 85 ¾ in. Sold at Christie’s London: 06 October 2017 for $450,418 USD
“303” (1991), acrylic, fluorescent acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, in 2 parts, 88 1/2 x 36 ¾ in. Sold at Phillip’s New York: 15 May 2019 for $400,000 USD
“303” (1991), acrylic, fluorescent acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, in 2 parts, 88 1/2 x 36 ¾ in. Sold at Phillip’s New York: 15 May 2019 for $400,000 USD

Paintings in Museum Collections

“Red Cell with Conduit” (1982), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 90 x 146 1/4 in., The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“Red Cell with Conduit” (1982), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 90 x 146 1/4 in., The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“A Perfect World” (1993), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 64 x 42 in., The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“A Perfect World” (1993), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 64 x 42 in., The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“Blue Cell with Triple Conduit” (1996), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 77 1/4 x 77 1/4 in., The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
“Blue Cell with Triple Conduit” (1996), Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 77 1/4 x 77 1/4 in., The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
“Two Cells with Conduit” (1987), Day-Glo, acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, two panels, 78 in. x 120 ¾ in., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
“Two Cells with Conduit” (1987), Day-Glo, acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, two panels, 78 in. x 120 ¾ in., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
“Where once geometry provided a sign of stability, order, and proportion, today it offers an array of shifting signifiers and images of confinement and deterrence.” – Peter Halley

Additional Resources

Explore the details of “Peter Halley: CELL GRIDS” at the Dallas Contemporary 26 September 2021 – February 2022, presenting a unique series of Halley paintings made from 2015 to the present
Take a look behind the scenes of the artist’s creative process in this 1994 footage of Peter Halley at work in his studio
Learn how Halley’s work has evolved over the years in this recent interview with Dallas Contemporary

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