Halley's Minimalism, Wired and Colorful
Parr, Debra Riley, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
"The day-glo paint is a signifier of `low budget mysticism.' It is the afterglow of radiation." Peter Halley
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 artist's hand.
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 art.
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. …