"The day-glo paint is a signifier of `low budget mysticism.' It
is the afterglow of radiation."
IN New York artist Peter Halley's paintings, large squares and
rectangles of day-glo pink or lime-green are accented by sharp
lines of equally vibrant color leading to and away from the central
form - a cell-like block of color. Sometimes the block of color has
a jail cell bar pattern inside it.
For over a decade now Halley has investigated the formalism of
the cell and the conduit in his paintings of severe geometric
design. Clearly about line and color, the paintings are
diagrammatic, reminiscent of the patterning in electrical systems,
computer chips, suburban grids, labyrinths, surveillance systems.
His is a plugged-in minimalism, a wired color-field.
Halley's recent drawings at the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery are
as plugged in as his canvases. They are obviously preparatory
designs and models for the paintings. While just as colorful as the
paintings, the drawings are smaller, more intimate, and more
painterly than his paintings, bearing the gestural marks of the
Cells of radiant color still form within larger cells; linear
networks of color still form within cells. But instead of the
cool, calculated armatures of color found in the pictures, the
facture of the drawings is uneven, worked, even occasionally
blobbed and messy.
The materials Halley uses in his drawings are similar to those
in the paintings - acrylic, day-glo acrylic, pencil, metallic
acrylic. In addition to the day-glo colors he favored almost
exclusively during the '80s, he has recently introduced more somber
and dour colors to his palette. He interrupts blinding day-glo with
drab brown or flat metal. Halley says he is "trying to push color
relationships that might appear kitchy or unpleasant. I am trying
to make things work that shouldn't work."
In some of the drawings assembled for this exhibition, the
artist draws his signature cell and conduit forms on graph paper.
One drawing, for example is a study in reds and pinks - four
conduits lead through a field of pink to a central red form
balanced on top of a darker red strip.
Underneath the strip a length of linen tape masks perhaps an
error, but also creates a sheer sort of plinth for the rest of the
drawing. Most of his recent drawings fulfill the dream of de
Stijl artist Theo Van Doesberg for a fully programmable geometric
With the help of a Macintosh computer Halley scans his own
drawings, and then manipulates or distorts the computer-generated
lines of a drawing to transform squares into rectangles, horizontal
shapes into vertical ones. …