Galeria Millan is pleased to present Peter Halley: New Paintings, the artist's first solo show in Brazil. The exhibition brings together five recent works, produced between 2020 and 2021, which emphasize colors and systems produced by the renowned artist who paved the way for the discovery of a new language for abstract painting in the history of art. The show is accompanied by a publication with a presentation text by Richard Milazzo, critic, poet, and curator based in New York.
Born in 1953 in New York, Peter Halley (1953, Nova York, Estados Unidos) played a central role in consolidating the neo-conceptual movement of the 1980s, considered one of the most electrifying of the post-war period, a generation that includes names such as Richard Prince, Peter Nagy, and Jeff Koons. The thinking of this artistic movement was guided by a paradigmatic awareness of technological and architectural forms of control and containment, seeking valences for abstraction beyond those brought into play by the American Abstract Expressionists.
Over the course of four decades, Halley has guided his visual discourse (laden with conduits, grids, prisons, bases, fluorescent paints and Roll-a-Tex) away from the purely formal reflections of geometric abstraction and toward existentialist and social thinking in the digital age. Since the 1990s, the artist has also worked with digital wall prints on a monumental scales that, together with his paintings, are combined in site-specific installations.
According to Milazzo, who has been following Halley's career since its beginning, his work has moved from a classical character to seemingly unrestricted developments nowadays that seek to counter a supposed oppression of abstract aestheticism and positivism. Halley’s new direction is evident in the present show, which brings together a group of his shaped paintings, a body of work he started making in 2018, which is situated in this last more rebellious phase of his trajectory, a result of decades of research.
Across Time and Double World (2020) and Between Two Worlds, Ascendant and Reminiscence (2021) – are presented standing on their stable bases, as are most of those produced in the last two years, and suggest, according to Milazzo, not only the ideas of balance and elevation, but also of precariousness, a recurring theme in his practice. However, in this group, the artist groups cells and prisons together to create an atmosphere of controlled fluidity.
Of the five paintings in the exhibition, only Reminiscence seems to bring an open look to the past of rectangular canvases, keeping, as Halley used to do, the method of connecting the prisons by means of conduits. "Perhaps not quite as wayward as the others, but nonetheless defining an edge on the other three sides that is irregular and beyond any rational or memorable calculation”, Milazzo writes. “Additionally, Ascendant possesses a sense humor, with the prison located in the middle and at the top all askew. If it is not ‘upright,’ so to speak, if it is, in fact, architecturally compromised or subverted, is that because all is not right with the world?”, he inquires.
The grid is the underlying reality of Halley's cells and prisons. But the use of color and his attempt to create a dream world separate from Western rationalism and to integrate the formal aspects of an image and its symbolic content speak to another of Halley's desires.
In Milazzo's words, what seems contradictory in the subversive aesthetic decision of contrasting dehumanized prisons and cells with bright commercial colors is not so at all. In them the artist seems to let emerge his intent “break out of the ‘prisons’ he sees all around us and all around him and his work – whether these prisons are architectural in nature or internalized as obsessive-compulsive behavioral forces which may strangely help us find our way, if we can manage to control them, or limit us in all that we do and want to achieve, if they control us”.