Peter Halley, Soul Control, 1991

“One can refer to it as either post-modernism or as neo-modernism, but what is characteristic of this order is that the elements of modernism are hyper-realized. They are reduced to their pure formal state and are denuded of any last vestiges of life or meaning. They are re-deployed in a system of self -referentiality which is itself a hyper-realization of modernist self-referentiality – though it is now detached from the modernist dream of revolutionary renewal. In post-or neo-modernism, the syntactical elements do not change. The vocabulary of modernism is retained, but its elements, already made abstract, are finally and completely severed from any reference to the real. In this hyper-modernism, the modern is never discarded. It is simply replaced by its formal double.” Peter Halley, Essence and Model, Collected Essays 1981-1987.

Peter Halley had been a rising star in the late 80s – the first abstract painter who was taken seriously as the Neo-Ex movement frittered away. Visually this work was a bit shocking – simple forms, direct presentation and manufactured color. Halley’s work was also based upon new theoretical ideas about the changing world. The paintings not only worked in direct opposition to Neo-Ex figuration they also challenged the process Mannerism of most abstract painting of the day. Halley’s work is usually included in the “Conceptual Abstraction” group shows, but these paintings never sit well next to those works.  

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