PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)
PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)
PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)
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PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)
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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)

Black Cell with Conduit

Details
PETER HALLEY (b. 1953)
Black Cell with Conduit
signed twice, titled and dated 'Black Cell with Conduit 1986 Peter Halley Peter Halley' (on the reverse)
acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, Flashe and Roll-a-Tex on canvas
48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 1986.
Provenance
International with Monument, New York
Arthur Solway, New York
Lang & O'Hara Gallery, New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
C. Reynolds, Peter Halley: Maintain Speed, New York, 2000, pp. 199-201 (illustrated).
Abstract Vision, exh. cat., Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich, 2008, n.p., no. 16 (illustrated).
C. Dirié, Peter Halley. Paintings of the 1980s. The Catalogue Raisonné, Zurich, 2018, p. 96 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Venice, La Biennale di Venezia, Museo Correr, Dreams and Conflicts. The Dictatorship of the Viewer, June-November 2003, p. 459 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Michael Baptist
Michael Baptist Specialist

Lot Essay

Exhibited at the Museo Correr in Venice during the 2003 Biennale , Peter Halley’s Black Cell with Conduit is an iconic example from the artist’s Cell series, a body of work spanning from 1985 to 1987 that aimed to use simplicity and dramatic color stories to incite discourse around contemporary society. The vivid orange of Halley’s large-scale canvas radiates with the warmth of a blistering sun. Applied with meticulous uniformity, the high-keyed pigment resonates in its own right, and with the jet-black graphic elements. Aiming to separate himself from the severe realities of Minimalism, Halley emphasizes the pureness of his pigments and the tactility of his application. Halley believed that the simplicity of form and of palette presented the optimal conditions for intellectual reflection.

Within the canvas, there is a thrilling contradiction between the vibrancy of the DayGlo color and the brooding black cell positioned within, gritty with the peaks and valleys of Roll-a-Tex textural additive. The lines that separate these textural planes are remarkably crisp. Less apparent to the eye, intimate inspection will highlight that the cell and the conduit, too, rest on individual planes. The tone of the conduit, a notably untextured vessel connecting the cell to the outer world, is darker and duller than the cell. Its purpose on the canvas, Halley suggests, is to facilitate the transfer of information between the cell and the networks that lie outside. Perhaps, he suggests, this cell is but one part of a larger grid.

Artists across the art historical canon have found inspiration in geometry and the grid-like nature of the built environment. A notable mirror to the vibrance of Halley’s orange and rectilinear forms is the work of Mark Rothko. Famous for his meticulous layering of pigment, Rothko wished for his oranges to exude a warmth that the viewer could feel even when their back was turned to them. Additionally, Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie is a testament to the artist’s divine love for the urban world. Miming the grid of New York subway lines and city blocks, Mondrian celebrates the vibrance and bustle of the urban city; constant movement, color, and flashing lights define an age of innovation and convenience. Halley’s work, however, is deliberately less celebratory than Mondrian, for he fears that these infrastructures of convenience – railways, technology, electrical grids - may confine us as much as they define us. The water we drink comes from overlapping systems of pipes; the cars we drive follow grid-like city plans; even the apartments that we live in are placed within strategically geometric buildings. Black Cell with Conduit may be considered a zoomed-in snapshot of these systems. If Mondrian is the celebratory wholeness of an energetic city, Halley is the fragment of a corporate blueprint or engineering diagram, stripped of fantasy and exposed for its programmatic control.

Inspired by the writings of French theoreticians Foucault and Baudrillard, Halley postures that late-capitalist society is substantiated by the paradigm of geometric representation. With this in mind, a penitentiary orange canvas and rectilinear bars may be articulated as a prison cell, connected a larger system of institutionalized incarceration. Or perhaps it is a high-rise, reaching beyond its highest peak to connect with fellow corporate mammoths. Regardless, Halley postures that we are inescapably defined by geometry. Halley’s brilliant diagrammatic vocabulary presents this work as an aesthetic monument to the conditions of our built environment.

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