Peter Halley Transforms Lever House for His Largest Installation to Date

Peter Halley Transforms Lever House for His Largest Installation to Date

Katherine McGrath for Architectural Digest - 24 September 2018

New York, New York is an homage to the artist's hometown, which sets midtown aglow in a bath of yellow light

When dusk falls on Park Avenue this autumn, passersby will have a hard time ignoring the fluorescent yellow glow radiating from East 54th Street. For three months, the entire set of windows wrapping around the second floor of the iconic Lever House will be clad in yellow window film, illuminated by tinted ceiling lighting from within. This is no optical illusion; rather, it's the work of American artist Peter Halley, who is staging his latest project inside the storied midtown building.

The new work, titled New York, New York, is a site-specific, immersive installation that spans the first two floors of the SOM-designed building. Curated by Roya Sachs, the exhibition is Halley's largest, most ambitious New York City project to date, composed of a mix of paintings, lighting works, and a Tetris-like labyrinth that sits in the center of the lobby. At first glance, the neon yellow structure appears to be little more than temporary walls erected to exhibit a selection of Halley's new paintings, but a walk around the perimeter reveals an entrance into the templelike form. A series of interior passageways, whose walls are collaged with digital reproductions of pages from notebooks the artist kept in the 1980s to chart the development of his paintings, lead the viewer deeper into the structure's center, which is hidden entirely from the outside world. The second chamber, illuminated by color-shifting lights, is covered entirely in an uneven grid of his Exploding Cells—a visual he employs often to symbolize change and instability. The third room, the heart of the labyrinth, is a dense network of interlocking rectangles, lit only by a few thin strips of black light above.

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Photo by Jesse David Harris. Courtesy Lever House Art Collection, Greene Naftali, New York, and the artist.
Photo by Jesse David Harris. Courtesy Lever House Art Collection, Greene Naftali, New York, and the artist.