Karma is pleased to announce Peter Halley, Boats Crosses Trees Figures, a survey of the artist’s early works on paper produced in 1977 and 1978, during his years living in New Orleans.
In these gouaches and cut-paper collages, color-saturated grids of squares and rectangles are assembled into a lexicon of symbolic representations of landscapes, boats, teepees, crosses, and the human figure. The works draw from an exuberant range of sources including Navajo and Hopi traditions, Islamic art and architecture, West African textiles, the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and even David Hockney’s waggish LA paintings of the 1960s.
Embracing an ebullient anthropological romanticism, these works of the late 70s stand in stark contrast to the pessimism soon to appear in Halley’s austere works of the 1980s, with their emphasis on the here-and-now of a society dominated by capitalism and digital technology.
As described in Richard Speer’s catalogue essay, “Before the Fall,” Halley’s use of high-keyed geometry in these New Orleans works persists, even though his world view becomes radically transformed. The idyllic vision that the artist, then in his 20s, constructed in verdant New Orleans gives way to the postlapsarian dystopia of New York, the Reagan era, and the digital carceral.
A new publication cataloguing Halley's gouaches with a text by Richard Speer has been published on the occasion of the exhibition.
Peter Halley, Boats Crosses Trees Figures 1977-78
Text by Richard Speer
Karma, New York, 2017
136 pages, Hardcover
10 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches