Lauren Halsey is one of the most exciting young artists working today. She produces standalone artworks in sculpture and mixed media, and site-specific installations, particularly in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles where her family has lived for several generations.
She has the vision of an activist, and her work explores the relationship between architecture and community engagement in urban centers. Her sculptural environments and flat works combine imagery from contemporary life in Harlem and LA with ancient Egypt, outer space, technicolor, and funk.
Born in Los Angeles in 1987, Lauren studied at the California Institute of the Arts, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2012, and then at Yale University from 2012 to 2014, where she earned an MFA.
In 2015, Lauren was included in the United exhibition at Coney Island Art Walls, an outdoor gallery of graffiti-covered walls. Next, she was included in the Everything, Everyday exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Lauren created an environment made of hieroglyphic reliefs set in an interplanetary desert oasis.
Lauren’s 2018 show at the Hammer Museum in LA called The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project was a functional space built out of plywood and gypsum, a mineral used in construction for thousands of years, including in the pyramids of ancient Egypt. She inscribed every panel on the main structure with signifiers of her community and neighborhood of South Central. That same year, Lauren won the Mohn Award, followed by the Frieze Artist Award in 2019.
What I love about Lauren’s colorful work is that it’s an archive of the people, culture, and beauty of her neighborhood. It critiques gentrification and disenfranchisement, offering suggestions for community building and mutual aid. I am proud to own Shirley’s, a piece by Lauren which is in Clayco’s St. Louis office.
Her latest solo show honors and documents her neighborhood and opened on May 6 at David Kordansky’s new Chelsea gallery.
Lauren has also been selected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual roof garden commission. I encourage anyone visiting New York to see her installation. It will be on view from May 17 through October 23.
The energy and imagination Lauren portrays have made her a powerful voice in the contemporary arts community. Her work invites us to reflect on the ways in which people aspire to make public things and places their own.
Read more about Lauren and her joyful work in this recent New York Times feature.