New York

Peter Halley

Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

With their stark, rectilinear compositions and their palette of unmodulated blacks and retina-searing fluorescents, the nine large paintings in “Peter Halley: Early Work, 1982 to 1987” still pack a visual wallop, their Day-Glo acrylics as deathless as Clorox bottles. In the mid-1980s, some relict formalist, stumbling upon them in the East Village, might have mistaken them for a New Wave homage to de Stijl. But Halley, steeped in critical theory, dubbed his squares and rectangles cells or prisons and his rigid lines conduits, and occasionally introduced some liminally representational element, like a row of narrow rectangles arranged to suggest a barred window (Prison and Cell with Smokestack and Conduit, 1985). These aren’t really abstractions, after all, but schematic renderings of some nightmare world, which of course is this world: postindustrial society as Phantom Zone, a sci-fi penal

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