Lever House Art Collection has announced a two-floor, immersive installation by Peter Halley titled New York, New York, that will open September 20 at Lever House, 390 Park Avenue. Here’s part of the release describing the show being put on with support from Greene Naftali Gallery:
Halley’s large-scale installation encompasses the modernist building’s ground-floor lobby as well as the cantilevered block-long band of windows ringing the second floor. Halley will use the circuit-like compositions of his paintings as inspiration for the installation’s layout, inviting viewers to feel as if they are walking through the space created by one of his paintings. A house-sized structural intervention in the lobby will have “rooms” collaged with various images that inform Halley’s work. Six new large, shaped canvases will be mounted on the exterior of the structure. Yellow window film and lights on both floors will create an artificial, irradiated atmosphere, visible at night from blocks away.
Lever House Art Collection commissions contemporary artists to create new, site-responsive works for the iconic building, which are seen by more than 200,000 people each day. New York, New York is curated by Lever House Art Collection curator Roya Sachs.
In this two-floor immersive installation, Halley uses the circuit-like compositions of his paintings as inspiration for the lobby’s layout, inviting viewers to feel as if they are walking through the space created by one of his paintings. Yellow window film on the exterior windows and yellow- tinted ceiling lighting create an artificial, irradiated presence.
The installation is foremost a series of changing scales. The sweeping band of yellow light on the second floor can be seen at night from blocks away. The paintings in the first-floor lobby address the viewer at street level. Then within the lobby, the structure Halley built to support the paintings has an interior passageway, leading into two hidden rooms, invisible to passersby on the street.
Eschewing the confinement of his rectilinear abstract paintings, the interior of the central structure is reminiscent of the “low-budget mysticism” advocated by Robert Smithson — as frequently cited by Halley. Upon entering, the visitor encounters an interior hallway intricately collaged with images from Halley’s notebooks of the 1980s — chronicling the development of Halley’s paintings in the early 80s. Following this, visitors enter a room whose walls are covered with a shifting grid of cartoon explosions — a motif that Halley often uses to evoke instability and change. Lastly, viewers arrive in a room lit only by black light, whose walls are covered with an intricate latticework of diagrammatic prisons. Each room remains a coherent environment, while also becoming part of a larger, more complex network of meanings.
In the 1980s, Halley emerged as a pivotal figure in the Neo-Conceptualist movement. Over the course of his 40-year career, Halley’s work has responded to the highly-determined character of our built environment, as well as to the rise of the digital age. The geometric compositions of his paintings create a discourse between “prisons,” “cells,” and their connecting “conduits” — motifs Halley uses to address the organization of contemporary social space, in which physically isolated units are linked by discrete, technologically-governed circuits.
Halley’s longstanding interest in architecture has also allowed for a nuanced exploration of Lever House’s modernist spaces. In his own words: “I grew up in Midtown, just a few blocks from Lever House. It was constructed the year before I was born, so it was always part of the landscape of my childhood. The lobby is a classic Mies van der Rohe glass box. It provided an irresistible opportunity to create a post-modern intervention within this paradigmatic modernist space.”