Peter Halley has continually reexamined the foundations of capital and technology—from his paintings and writings in the 1980s, to his algorithmic flowcharts and pioneering use of digital printing in the 1990s, to the rethinking of social space that continues in his paintings and installations today. In an era increasingly dominated by digital technology, the internet, and social media, Halley’s influence—as both artist and writer—is increasingly recognized today.
Alongside fellow Neo-Conceptualists like Haim Steinbach and Barbara Kruger, Halley pioneered an approach to art that was as socially engaged as it was formally daring, an approach that has come to define art today, from current reflections on the ‘80s to a new generation of young artists engaged in post-institutional critique who are taking on an expanding range of social issues.
For his first showing at Greene Naftali, Halley has assembled a complex multi-part installation integrating painting, wall-sized digital prints, sculpture, and sound.
In the outdoor courtyard, Halley has installed his 1994 grisaille fiberglass relief, Asphalt Cell, its cast asphalt and cement surfaces echoing the materiality of the surrounding architectural setting. On the courtyard’s end wall, the artist has situated a reflective metallic print in which he has digitally reproduced, in one-to-one scale, the cinderblock pattern of the actual wall behind. The cinderblock print then extends into the gallery’s interior along the parallel wall.
In the front gallery, adjacent to the courtyard, Halley’s monumental digital print, Five Yellow Explosions (2017), creates an intensely colored, hermetic environment. Here, his signature explosion motif—which Halley has explored since the ‘90s—is printed on metallic foil and illuminated by a mix of yellow artificial lighting and translucent colored film applied to the large windows.
In the main gallery, Halley exhibits a series of nine new paintings, displayed with the intermittent accompaniment of recorded music. This new series of paintings transforms the iconographic elements that the artist has developed over the past four decades to express a new sense of topsy-turvy disorientation. The paintings almost all feature multiple, connected prison images, whose arrangement is subject to repeated spatial permutations based on rotation, reflection, and mirroring. The dissonant color palette Halley employs furthers the subtle subversion of this painting corpus.
In the gallery’s small back room, Halley has installed a sculpture by Robert Morris, Untitled (1978), in which a distorting fun-house mirror is situated behind classical architectural fragments, rendered in copper cladding. The mirror’s curved surface produces wildly warped reflections of its surroundings, a culmination of the disorientation thematized throughout the exhibition.
This September, Halley will unveil a permanent installation of digital mural prints at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, the second stage of a project begun in 2008. In 2018, his work will be included in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's exhibition, BRAND NEW: Art and Commodity in the 1980s.