Lauren Halsey34, a South Central Los Angeles artist who often does site-specific installations and also founded a community centerhas been shortlisted for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Roof Garden Commission, the museum announced Monday.
For her installation, presented from May 17 to October 23, Halsey will create a large-scale architectural structure. Called “The East of South Central Los Angeles Hieroglyphic Prototype Architecture (I)”, the piece will invite visitors to step inside to explore connections to ancient Egyptian symbolism, the utopian architecture of the 1960s and contemporary visual expressions such as branding.
“It’s a building project that we’re managing that will exist in the context of the Met,” Halsey said in a phone interview, a “remix and sampling of pharaonic architectural symbols – the sphinx, the columns, the cobblestones” .
The artwork will be displayed in South Central Los Angeles following its presentation at the Met. “Halsey’s activist vision offers a portal to the near future,” Sheena Wagstaff, chair of modern and contemporary art at the Met, said in a statement. “She has created a monument of living architecture, exquisitely carved with a pictographic vernacular that blends ancient hieroglyphics with the visual patterns of her home and community.”
Halsey, who earned her MFA at Yale in 2014, was artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Three years ago, one of his projects was selected for the 2019 Frieze Artist Award, a commission from emerging artists supported by the Luma Foundation. She was featured in the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA” biennial and had her first exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles in early 2020, showcasing her colorful paintings on wooden boxes, a reference to the how big-box retailers displace local merchants.
“With this installation, Halsey channels the Met’s unparalleled collections of Egyptian art through the prism of Afrofuturism, while creating a powerful form of documentation of her neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles,” said Max Hollein. , director of the Met, in a press release. “By engaging with the past, while exploring a space of speculative imagination, Halsey offers us a powerful statement about civic space, social activism, and a reconsideration of the possibilities of architecture and community engagement.”
Halsey’s practice is strongly focused on engagement. The center she founded in 2018, Summaeverythang, is “dedicated to the socio-political, economic, intellectual and artistic empowerment and transcendence of black and brown people,” its website says.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the center has donated and delivered organic produce from Southern California farms to South Central Los Angeles.