At his Connecticut studio, Peter Halley works among an eclectic collection of furniture and art infused with personal memories.
Alice Newell-Hanson for T Magazine
In the 1980s, the artist Peter Halley helped ignite New York’s East Village art scene alongside contemporaries like Jeff Koons and Ashley Bickerton. In 1996, he co- founded the influential arts and culture magazine Index. And between 2002 and 2011, he served as the director of Yale’s M.F.A. painting program. But he is best known for his often gargantuan neon abstract canvases, which he has made in subtly varying forms for four decades (a show of his recent works is currently on view at Dallas Contemporary). Comprising cell-like shapes connected by “conduits,” his paintings are at once luminous and austere, with textured surfaces he laboriously builds up using layers of acrylic frequently mixed with Roll-a-Tex, a surfacing material for houses. A native New Yorker, he works mostly from a 5,000- square-foot studio in West Chelsea, a former industrial building filled with buckets of Day-Glo paint and bins of splattered rollers.
But his studio in Connecticut, a modest two-story house wrapped in black-stained shingles that he bought and renovated in 2010, and where he now spends a few days each week, is a very different kind of work space. It serves as both a refuge for making the 17-by-22-inch studies on which his large-scale paintings are based — a meditative process he likens to composing music but with colors instead of chords — and as a memory palace of sorts, filled with furniture and objects from each chapter of his life.