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Solo exhibition of work by American artist Peter Halley opens at Art Plural Gallery
Peter Halley, Raising Hope I, 2013, acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 121.9 x 99.1 cm. Photo: courtesy of Art Plural Gallery.

SINGAPORE.- Art Plural Gallery announces the solo exhibition of world renowned American artist, Peter Halley. Featuring more than 15 years of creation, the retrospective exhibition will run from 29 August to 3 October, 2014 on the first floor of the gallery.

Born in New York in 1953, Peter Halley is acclaimed for his geometric colourful abstract paintings that have travelled across the globe to join the most prestigious institutions such as the Guggenheim, New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Obsessively playing with rectangular shapes linked with a quantity of tubes, the artist reinterprets the structure of prison cells or computer chips through constructive and highly organized juxtapositions anchoring his work in contemporary issues.

Peter Halley’s work is dense in colour and texture. From the dark palette of the years 2000, fluorescent compositions strike the eye while attracting it towards the velvet-looking coarse surfaces of the canvas. Creating a superimposition, the various layers objectify the theme of the painting and invite the viewer to penetrate in a reality coded with colours. Indeed, Peter Halley’s abstract aesthetic is counterbalanced with the precision devoted to titles. The work entitled Horizontal Blue Prison over Horizontal Blue Prison stands for an example of how the artist contextualises each painting in details. To this extent, Peter Halley, along with Frank Stella or Daniel Buren for instance, participates in the renewal of pure abstraction towards an artistic movement that integrates symbolism, figuration and functionality. “I always thought that my works were representing something in a way or another. I never understood abstraction”, declares the artist. The representational reality in Peter Halley’s works transcends the static geometry and questions the actual presence of the painting.

“In the past, geometry meant stability, order and proportions, but it offers today a changing multiplicity of meanings, images of imprisonment and dissuasion,” he also states. Thus, Peter Halley extends the metaphor of a prison and develops various series of cells representing the mental isolation and oppression of jails, hospitals and cities seen as global impersonal machines. The prison lexical field engages a dialogue with the recurrence of a vocabulary related to technology, communication and information fluxes.

However, there is no identity between the described reality and the bright pleasant colours and simple filled shapes that enlighten this narrative thread recalling advertising visuals. In the artist’s words, his latest works are not described as sinister or disturbing but rather as joyful, humorous and excessive compositions. This contrast relays Halley’s fantasizing quest that pulled him, at the beginning of his artistic career, towards Matisse’s aesthetics. Synthesizing both human penchants, Peter Halley offers colours as a remedy to despair.

Peter Halley’s work is highly enmeshed in a socio-political environment. The artist interprets American pop mass culture as a fantasy that leads art to commercially-appealing decorative forms. Furthermore, post industrialisation is clearly targeted in his themes and motifs. “The social is finally becoming the site of pure abstraction. Each human being is no longer just a number, but is a collection of numbers, each of which ties him or her to a different matrix of information. There is the telephone number, the social security number, and the credit card number”, says Peter Halley. Paradoxically, abstraction becomes the mirror of society. The artist underlines different oppositions such as the abstract and the figurative, darkness and colours, rigorous geometry and purity of forms, imprisonment and communication. However, he places his work outside of a critical process emphasizing the multiple layers of interpretation and continues to defy categorisation.

“We are very pleased to present Peter Halley’s retrospective exhibition featuring more than 15 years of his artistic career. Peter Halley’s work is extremely appealing and reveals a complex construction related to social issues of our contemporary world. This exhibition is truly a momentous occasion for Art Plural Gallery.”– Frédéric de Senarclens, founder and director of Art Plural Gallery.

Largely associated with Neo-Conceptualism and Minimalist art, Peter Halley is famed for his vibrantly- coloured geometrical paintings, often described as square prisons. Halley challenges the concept of space, viewing his principle motif, the square, as a metaphor for confinement. Reflecting the idea of prisons, solitary themes play crucial to Halley’s work. The artist refers to the time when he first returned to New York, recollecting the isolated hardships he faced upon living alone. The importance of solitary isolation in his work is further enhanced by his intensely bright, almost fluorescent, colour palette, which has often been interpreted as a clear movement away from the natural world. Using Roll-a-Tex and Day- Glo paint as his main material sources, Halley’s art thus transcends modern principles as a reflection of contemporary society.

Peter Halley was born in New York City in 1953. After receiving his BA from Yale University, he furthered his studies at the University of New Orleans, graduating with an MFA in 1978. Halley remained working in New Orleans until 1980, when he made the decision to move back to New York. It was in New York that the artist began reaching new peaks, furthering his milieu of work in the creation of his most influential pieces. Since then, Halley has gone on to exhibit at important establishments like the Musee d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (1991), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1992), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1992), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1997), the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (1998), the Museum Folkwang, Essen (1998), the Butler Institute of American Art (1999) and the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2007). Furthermore, his work has been exhibited on an international scale, having been displayed in galleries in London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Seoul and Tokyo. Halley has also published a variety of essays addressing post-structuralism, post-modernism, and most importantly, the digital revolution of the 1980s, which has been collated into two books of collected essays. His writing has received countless appraisals, and he was awarded the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association in 2001. Halley has also gone on to lecture at prominent institutions, most notably Columbia University in New York, UCLA and the School of Visual Arts. Halley is currently the Director of Graduate Studies in Painting and Printmaking at the Yale University School of Art, and he currently lives and works in New York.

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