Peter Halley on his Big Paintings

Weighing the pros and cons of the contemporary art boom

For more than 30 years Peter Halley, who first rose to prominence in the 1980s, has enjoyed a robust yet steady career with consistent demand for and interest in his geometric abstract paintings, with their signature prison cells and conduit imagery, often in DayGlo colors. Prior to joining the faculty at Yale University in 1999, he taught at Columbia University and at UCLA, influencing successive generations of younger artists and taking an avid interest in their work and development.

The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut has just unveiled a show of nine large-scale abstract paintings that epitomize his work while also showing the arc of his development as a painter and artist over the years. “Peter Halley: Big Paintings” runs through May 31. Halley also recently celebrated the publication of index A to Z: Art, Design, Fashion, Film, and Music in the Indie Era, an exhaustive book that compiles all the issues of index, the magazine he published from 1996-2005 (Rizzoli published the book this past spring).

We visited Halley in his New York studio to talk about his work, his teaching, and his numerous writing endeavors. We discussed some of the major differences in today’s art world as compared with when he got his start in the 1980s. “The great thing about today’s art world is that so many artists can make a living doing all sorts of different things,” Halley told artnet News. “The negative part, in my view, is that as art gets more and more popular, the issues get a little dumbed down and that there’s less discussion of things that are difficult.”

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