Contributed by Sharon Butler / In his�first solo show at Greene Naftali, Peter Halley contends with�the new�American reality�of an increasingly�shameless and authoritarian state under�which, despite the best efforts of an�overstretched�free press and an embattled political opposition, the difference between fact and fiction has become�increasingly obscured.�Halley has outfitted the�cavernous�gallery�with�metallic�floor-to-ceiling digital prints, tweaked�lighting, a handful of his signature paintings, and intermittent sound emissions to create a disturbing�sense of unease�and�”topsy-turvy disorientation.� In the back room, as a mordant coda, Halley has included one of�Robert Morris�s 1978 sculptures made of classical architectural fragments and a distorting fun house mirror.
Responding�to the bunker-like space, Halley begins the show with a greyscale installation in the courtyard. He mounts one of his�earlier paintings, a 1994 piece�called�Cell with Conduit,�in the entryway, and on the adjoining wall installs�a�mural-size metallic digital print that echoes the wall�s cinderblock pattern. From the beginning, reality appears fluid:�the painting seems to become�part of the infrastructure while�the cinderblock pattern appears to be�part of the painting.
Inside the first gallery, Halley has created a room-sized installation using another metallic digital print and custom lighting. He begins to turn on the color, in the form of yellow translucent film applied to�the windows and perception-altering yellow light. According to the press materials, Halley used the explosion motif in the 1990s, but this was the first time I had seen it, and the undulating, non-geometric nature of the image�signaled that Halley was engaging with new ideas.
Walking into the main gallery, the viewer is confronted with a�wall covered in the metallic cinderblock, on which two�new�greyscale paintings hang.�In this room, the yellow introduced as light in�the first gallery is�the actual color of the surfaces, covering the three�walls and all the columns in the room. The light is a bright white, and music plays intermittently on the sound system. Over the course of�the�installation, the work changes from from depressive cinderblock greyscale to full-on, high-key color. I was reminded for a moment of the point�in The Wizard of Oz when the black-and-white film becomes�color, but in this case something more sinister than Munchkin Land emerges.
In the main gallery space, nine new�paintings hang on the vivid yellow walls�and�feature the�signature cells, prison, and conduit motifs that Halley has painstakingly developed over the last 40�years.�But in this new setting, the�rigidity and claustrophobia�of previous exhibitions recedes. Mounted on the yellow wall, the paintings loom as�free-floating entities, similar in form but untethered from one another. Beyond the oft-noted political polarization of the country, they impart a profound loss of connection and community.
After taking in�the painting installation, I entered�the back room, a��darkened grotto�lit theatrically�with a few warm spotlights. Robert Morris�s sculpture, which for many viewers must be a distant memory, stands quietly, elegantly encapsulating�the disorientation that has occurred�in the last nine months, since the Trump administration�took control of the government.
In past exhibitions, Halley�has employed�a clearly articulated abstract�visual language�to express ideas about how technology, institutional control, and global interaction�affect the individual.�In this expansive and insightful new exhibition, he�seems to be suggesting that the world is in flux, and that facts and intellectual understandings are�not as firm�as he had previously thought. Truth, no longer a given, drifts.
�Peter Halley: Ground Floor,� Greene Naftali, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through October�21st, 2017.