Lauren Halsey, 34, the artist from South Central Los Angeles who often makes site-specific installations and also founded a community center, has been selected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual roof garden commission, the museum announced Monday.
For her installation, on view from May 17 through Oct. 23, Halsey will create a full-scale architectural structure. Called “the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I),” the piece will invite visitors to step inside to explore connections to ancient Egyptian symbolism, 1960s utopian architecture and contemporary visual expressions like tagging.
“It’s a construction project that we’re managing that will exist within the context of the Met,” Halsey said in a telephone interview, a “remix of and sampling of Pharaonic architectural symbols — the sphinx, columns, pavers.”
The work will be displayed in South Central Los Angeles after it is presented at the Met. “Halsey’s activist vision offers a portal into the near future,” Sheena Wagstaff, the Met’s chairwoman of Modern and contemporary Art, said in a statement. “She has created a monument to living architecture, carved exquisitely with a pictographic vernacular that meshes ancient hieroglyphs with the visual motifs of her home and community.”
Halsey, who earned her M.F.A. from Yale in 2014, was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Three years ago, a project of hers was selected for the 2019 Frieze Artist Award, a commission for emerging artists supported by the Luma Foundation. She has been featured in the Hammer Museum’s biennial “Made in L.A.,” and had her first exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles in early 2020, featuring her colorful paintings on wooden boxes, a reference to how big box retailers displace local merchants.
“With this installation, Halsey channels the Met’s unparalleled Egyptian Art collections through the lens of Afrofuturism, while also creating a powerful form of documentation of her neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles,” Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said in a statement. “Engaging with the past, while also exploring a space of speculative imagination, Halsey offers us a powerful statement about civic space, social activism, and a reconsideration of the possibilities for architecture and community engagement.”
Halsey’s practice has a strong engagement focus. The center she founded in 2018, Summaeverythang, is “dedicated to the empowerment and transcendence of Black and brown folks socio-politically, economically, intellectually and artistically,” its website says.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the center has donated and delivered organic produce from Southern California farms to South Central Los Angeles.