Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis




Art History

First Advisor

Bradford R. Collins


This thesis examines the sociological and aesthetic theory that forms the basis for Peter Halley's artistic program. While Halley has been the subject of numerous articles and interviews, there are no full length monographs on the artist that examine the progression of his work from its emergence in the early eighties to the mature work of the last decade. In particular, the underlying theory - that of his own making, as well as that of the thinkers who have influenced him - has been treated in a cursory fashion. The result has been a general tendency to view his paintings as inextricably bound to the social theory of poststructuralist thinkers (particularly Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault), with little or no attention given to other influences that have exerted pressures of at least equal, if not greater significance.

In order to provide a more thoroughly rounded view of Halley's production, I have explored influences that have had a significant impact on his thinking, but are located outside a postructuralist system of thought. This is not to say that I have eschewed the contribution of the French philosophers. The writings of both Baudrillard and Foucault were integral to Halley's early theoretical assumptions and continue to inform his mature work. However, my primary focus has been on those matters, aesthetic as well as societal, that have occupied the artist throughout his career, but have not been sufficiently addressed by art historians and critics. These include, but are not limited to, the writings of contemporary sociologist Richard Sennett, as well as works by the early twentieth century social theorist, Norbert Elias, and the Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas. While I have focused primarily on the sociological implications of Halley's oeuvre, I have also examined the validity of the artist's place in the art historical continuum. Accordingly, the last chapter deals with Halley's formal investigations and aesthetic theory, especially as they relate to the culture.


© 2009, Virginia Millner Kemp