March 7, 2010

Peter Halley's grim vision

 Peter Halley at Mary Boone. Installation view.

In Time Out New York Michael Wilson reports that Peter Halley's iconography may be austere, but it belongs exclusively to him. "Predictably, this exhibition of new paintings by ’80s star Peter Halley is virtually indistinguishable from his last, a testament to the artist’s exclusive commitment to a hard-edged geometric design in which horizontally barred 'cells' are connected or surrounded by linear conduits. Halley also continues to make use of intense, often discordant color combinations in conjunction with Roll-a-Tex paint. As the terminology that Halley employs to describe his work’s components suggests, these paintings may look like nothing more than formal abstractions, but they in fact offer a thoroughgoing critique of self-referential modernism (albeit one that was rather more contentious when it first appeared). Rooted in a grim vision of technological society as a rigid matrix of institutional control, these airless compositions and impenetrably opaque surfaces (which appear more plated than painted) still offer—even after all these years—little hope of escape. Rather, Halley’s canvases describe a condition that, cosmetic enhancements notwithstanding, only becomes more obdurate over time. And while the cold force that his work once exerted may now feel warmed-over to regular observers, Halley’s uncontested ownership of his powerfully austere iconography remains impressive.

"Peter Halley," Mary Boone, New York, NY. Through March 20.


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