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Peter Halley. Conduits

Paintings from the 1980s.

  • Exhibition
  • Mar 31 2023 - Oct 15 2023


Assembling thirty key works from public and private collections, this retrospective survey presents paintings alongside previously unseen drawings, sketches and notes from the first decade of Peter Halley’s career. 

During the 1980s Peter Halley developed a signature vocabulary that he has used in his work now for over forty years. Redeploying the language of geometric abstraction, he developed a pictorial system of ‘prisons’, ‘cells’ and ‘conduits’ that enabled him to produce diagrammatic paintings representing social subjects. With these works he addressed the impact and legacies of urbanisation and industrialisation within a post-industrial society marked by technological change. Working at the advent of the internet and at a time that saw the mass adoption of personal computers and video games, he described the physical and bureaucratic environments of the late twentieth century and the systemic logic that found expression within the architectures of a new digital space. Reflecting on this period in his essay, Geometry and the Social (1990) Halley wrote: 

I wanted to draw attention to this geometricised, rationalised, quantified world. I saw it as a world characterised by efficiency, by regimentation of movement, bureaucracies, whether in the corporation, government, or university. It is a world also characterised by the commodification and quantification of all aspects of human activity – where one can put a number or a dollar sign on any human activity … [Geometry is] the language of [the] managerial-professional class. It is the language of the corporation and flow charts; it is the language of urban planning and of communications. 

Peter Halley. Conduits: Paintings from the 1980s is the first museum survey of Halley’s 1980s work in over thirty years. Drawing extensively on Halley’s critical writing, interviews and unpublished notes it seeks to re-evaluate this early work and its subjects of alienation, isolation, confinement and connectivity within the context of its production. The exhibition reflects upon both the artistic and critical landscape of New York in the 1980s and a period of social history shaped by economic expansion and collapse, nuclear threat and the AIDS epidemic. 

The exhibition and accompanying publication are realised in close cooperation with the artist. It includes works from the collections of Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover; Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles; CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Rennie Collection, Vancouver; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Mudam Collection. 

It is generously supported by Banque Degroof Petercam Luxembourg and Cargolux, with additional in-kind support from Baldwin Gallery, Aspen; Peter Halley; López de la Serna CAC, Madrid; Maruani Mercier, Brussels; Rennie Collection, Vancouver; The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Curated by Michelle Cotton, assisted by Sarah Beaumont 
Location Galleries Level 1 

For more information visit



Peter Halley, Prison, 1989
Acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas 
One panel 

Collection CAPC musée d'Art contemporain, Bordeaux
© Photo: Steven Sloman



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