Inspired by the 1980s Funk aesthetic, Afrofuturism, and ancient Egyptian iconography, Lauren Halsey's sculptures and site-specific installations celebrate life in South Central Los Angeles while addressing the pressing concerns of class divides, disenfranchisement, and gentrification in the contemporary United States.Read More
Collaboration is key to Lauren Halsey's practice, which not only reflects her dedication to her community but also the significance of being able to determine one's own environment. In 2018, Halsey recruited her family and neighbours to create the immersive, cave-like installation we still here, there for her first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The work consisted of white geological structures lit by psychedelic LED lights and populated by discarded items—doll parts, mirrors, miniature flags, figurines, and hair extension packs, among others—that the artist had collected from her home-neighbourhood of South Central Los Angeles. Deriving the title from one of the local signposts in the installation, which reads 'we are still here', Halsey added 'there' to celebrate the resilience of her community throughout history and against increasing gentrification and changes in the contemporary period.
Lauren Halsey often draws from ancient Egyptian iconography to create contemporary hieroglyphs that honour her community. Participating in Made in L.A. 2018 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, in 2018, she presented The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project (Prototype Architecture), which included a four-walled, rectangular structure made from plywood and gypsum. Across the walls were carvings referring to Halsey's neighbourhood, featuring portraits of family and friends and storefront signage, among other markings. Prototype Column for Tha Shaw (RIP The Honorable Ermias Nipsey Hussle Asghedom) I—a 12-foot white column commissioned for Frieze New York in 2019—also features hieroglyphic carvings that reference lyrics by the late rapper. In both works, Halsey chronicles the history of an otherwise-underrepresented people in a way that evokes the myths and pharaohs' deeds preserved in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Lauren Halsey held her first solo exhibition in Europe at Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2019. Titled Too Blessed 2 Be Stressed!, the site-specific installation consisted of 'Funk Mounds': white modules resembling archways or rocks with cavities that contained small ephemera she gathered in Paris and South Central Los Angeles. Adorned with potted plants, the work created a contemplative environment that Halsey paired with 'Funk Manifesto': a soundtrack written and read by herself.
While Lauren Halsey's works are known for their optimistic character, the painting installations shown in her solo exhibition at Los Angeles' David Kordansky Gallery in 2020 adopted a more melancholic tone. Commemorating local Black and Latino businesses, the artist used oversized sign boards and boxes—such as WAZ UP! (2019), a 3.7-metre-tall signpost—to create poignant monuments that reference the ongoing gentrification in Los Angeles that has forced many small shops out of business.
Lauren Halsey studied at California College of the Arts, El Camino Community College, and California Institute of the Arts between 2005 and 2012, and received an MFA from Yale University in 2014.
Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020
Lauren Halsey centres the community in her practice, which focuses on the reimagining and rebuilding of South-Central Los Angeles through spatial paradigms that reference funk, hip hop, Afrofuturism, and science fiction.