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Peter Halley (1954)

Peter Halley was born into a well-known politician’s family on September 24, 1954, in New York. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1975, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Orleans in 1978. Halley has lived in New York since 1980.

In 1981 he began developing a kind of painting involving fluorescent colors, in which he explored the geometrical form as a symbol of isolating walls and stereotypical buildings. Halley became interested in the square as a fetishized symbol of abstract painting when he was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, where his teacher introduced him to Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color. From 1981 on he started to counter Minimalism—which had dominated the art scene well into the late 1970s—with clear, critical content. Ever since then, many of his works have carried such titles as Prisons, Cells, or Conduits. He has explored the notion of the square as prison and living space, using neon Day-Glopaints and Roll-a-Tex, which creates a plasterlike surface. Both materials can be seen on American streets any day. «I was fascinated by that,» he said,«the material is valuable to me, in my explorations of social matters.»

Halley wants his works to be understood as emblems. The artist dictates the «right» interpretation.

Halley’s artistic works are flanked by essays, which were published in 1988 in the Edition Bruno Bischofberger. His writings are influenced by French post-structuralists, especially Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault. Halley’s international reputation goes back to his exhibition, at the East Village gallery International with Monument, in 1985. His theme remains isolation, whether it is the isolation of individuals in prison, or the fate of the individual in office-cubicle work environments. In the 1990s Halley began creating installations in which he combined paintings with organizational charts and logos of fictitious companies.

He has become increasingly interested in the things that structure our lives, which determine work and leisure time, and immobilize and limit the human being. «We are no longer isolated [...]. Conduits of all kinds come in and take out, bring us entertainment, fresh air, light, water, and music. This change is the most important event in the last thirty years.» Today, Halley lives in New York and, as the head of the Art Department at Yale University, is now engaged in educating the next generations of artists.


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