Gregory Halili: Memento

October 30, 2014 - December 13, 2014

The next exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery comprises new work by Gregory Halili. This is his first show since 2006, and reveals a shift and change in his work, coinciding with a change in the artist’s city and country of residence. Rather than fill the gallery with intimate scale watercolors of butterflies, paradisiacal landscapes, or New York vistas, the artist has devoted himself to paintings on mother-of-pearl for the past several years, focusing on two subjects: “eyes” and “skulls,” imagery that explores the life cycle. The exhibition opens on October 30th and continues through December 13th.

Gregory Halili was born in the Philippines, and moved to this country with his family as a teenager. He lived in the New York City area after receiving his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia until about a year ago, when he and his family decided to return to the Philippines. Over the years on trips to the Philippines he visited outdoor markets, fish markets, and immersed himself in the culture of “local” life. Five years ago at the outdoor markets he spotted mother-of-pearl shells, larger and more splendid than any shells he had ever seen. He wanted to utilize this beautiful rare and raw material in his work. His first paintings in oil on mother-or pearl are “eyes.”

Mostly they depict his wife’s eyes in the tradition of the “eyes of the beloved.” He traces the circadian rhythm of sleep to waking, the eye is closed, slowly opens in a progression of circles and ellipses, opens wide, and then slowly closes at the end of each cycle. His works entitled “Sunrise” and “Moonrise” consist of approximately nine shaped discs, which the artist cuts and sands from a large mother-of-pearl shell. “Sunrise” is painted in oil on a gold-lipped mother-of-pearl shell; “Moonrise” is oil on a silvery black mother- of-pearl shell.

Halili writes of his “eyes:”

“Throughout history humans have believed the eye is the window to the soul. I am interested in the idea of how the eye can transcend religion, become universal and evoke emotion.”

Following the late 18th century English tradition of the eye of the beloved, Halili uses the eye as a symbol of both human and cosmic existence.

After creating several works of eyes, incorporating his mother, father and himself into the mix, the artist embarked on a series of skulls, which utilize the entire mother-of-pearl shell, the form mirrors and contains the skull. Halili carves into the shell to bring forth the skulls’ features: bones, teeth, eye sockets, the contour of the head. These are captivating and beguiling objects, they seem to depict the life enhancing part of dying, suggesting the cycle of life goes on and on. The artist writes about his newest series:

“Unlike the eyes, I have carefully chosen and selected the large, raw shells that form an almost natural shape of a skull. I find this incredibly amazing and beautiful.”

In addition to the shells, Halili makes bases for his skulls out of wood from the Philippines, both shell and base materials from the artist’s country of birth and newly adopted place of residence.

Gregory Halili’s work has been shown at The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York; Artists’ House Gallery, Philadelphia; Ayala Museum, Makati City, Philippines; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Fisher Museum, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden, Salem, New York; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Montclair State University, New Jersey; Selby Gallery, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington, D.C; and Jorge B. Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines.

His work is included in the collections of BenCab Museum, Baguio City, Philippines and The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio.

The artist has won awards from numerous institutions including the Art Institute of New Jersey; Millennia of Philippine Art, 1998 Outstanding Young Filipino-American Artist; “Trenton Times” (New Jersey); and the United Nations Postal Administration. He was named Governor’s School of the Arts Scholar (New Jersey) and is listed in “Who’s Who Among American Students.”

For further information and/or photographs please call 212-966-6676 or email Nancy Hoffman Gallery at

Yours sincerely,

Nancy Hoffman