Peter Halley – Four Decades of Drawings

Day-glo acrylics are not the sole medium of this New York-born abstract artist. Abstract may not be the appropriate term to use, though—the artist himself prefers to call his work “diagrammatic” because of the concreteness and deliberateness of each element in his paintings and drawings. Though Peter Halley’s works are often remembered as a number of his earliest, bright, minimalist pieces, Halley has run through and around different methods to craft his compositions. His latest exhibit, Drawings: Four Decades is a collection of much of the driving force behind his work, including paint studies on paper, digital animation, and photomechanical prints—many of which have never been exhibited before.

Peter Halley - Tree in Landscape, 1977

Peter Halley - Tree in Landscape, 1977

Despite the variations in Peter’s work, much of it can be described with the same qualifiers and often has very similar messages; straight lines symbolizing prison cells or strict order drawing our attention to those things that control or enslave all of us. Several of his line drawings from the eighties draw this theme out again and again, particularly comparing apartment complexes to penitentiaries.

Peter Halley - Prisons: Indoors and Outdoors, 1981

Peter Halley - Prisons: Indoors and Outdoors, 1981

Peter Halley - Apartment House, Prison, 1981

Peter Halley - Apartment House, Prison, 1981

Currently exhibiting at the Gering & López gallery in New York through April 23, Drawings: Four Decades includes works done using a photomechanical process on kodalith, an oft forgotten monochromatic film. Of the selections in the exhibit made in this process, the gallery press release reads:

Also in the exhibition is a variety of works from the early 1980s in which Halley maps his developing concern with post-industrial space — first in a series of simple mechanical pen drawings on graph paper, then in his “Kodaliths.” In these, Halley’s drawings are printed on mylar as photographic negatives, thus yielding an ethereal clear line on a film-like black background. As Halley’s work with Kodaliths progresses through the mid-80s, he focuses less on articulating his new world of prisons, cells, and, conduits, and more on the re-presentation of simple words and phrases taken from the realm of packaging and highway signage in works like “Digitally Mastered” and “Maintain Speed”.

Peter Halley - The Meaning of Production, 1981

Peter Halley - The Meaning of Production, 1981

Peter Halley - Voyage to a City, 1981

Peter Halley - Voyage to a City, 1981

Among the expected line drawings, post-modern paintings, and film work are a pair of large-format flowcharts. Created in the mid-1990s, Halley’s emphasis fell on society’s attention to processes and the automation of once organic actions and thoughts.

Peter Halley - Is Response Improved?, 1995

Peter Halley - Is Response Improved?, 1995

A number of the more recent pieces in the collection resemble very much the space he explored with his early Day-glo pieces; order, chaos, interconnectedness, and separation all explored within the same constraints of minimalist lines and square shapes.

Peter Halley - Untitled, 2008

Peter Halley - Untitled, 2008

Peter Halley - Untitled, 2010

Peter Halley - Untitled, 2010

Are Halley’s works post-modern masterpieces? Make yourself heard below.

Exhibition page at Gering & López.
Article from Contemporary Art.
Peter Halley’s personal website.

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