Lauren Halsey’s large-scale architecture structure commissioned for The Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden is now on view through October 22, 2023.
Titled the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), the work is imbued with the collective energy and imagination of the South Central Los Angeles community where Halsey was born and continues to work.
Rising 22 feet high and composed of more than 750 glass-fiber-reinforced concrete tiles, the cube-like structure is surrounded by four columns and four sphinxes.
It is designed to be inhabited by The Met’s visitors, who will be able to explore its connections to sources as varied as ancient Egyptian symbolism, 1960s utopian architecture, and contemporary visual expressions like tagging that reflect the ways in which people aspire to make public places their own.
The exhibition is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Additional support is provided by The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation, the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky, and Vivian and Jim Zelter.
Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said, ”
We are incredibly excited for visitors to experience Lauren Halsey’s magnificent commission for the Museum’s Cantor Roof Garden. 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. 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.”
“My installation for The Met’s Roof Garden reflects my interest in conflating narratives from contemporary South Central Los Angeles with those evoked in ancient pharaonic architecture. My hope is that viewers in New York feel the connections intuitively.”
Almost every surface of the structure is covered with a dense collage of phrases and images—all drawn from a specific vernacular of signs, texts, and symbols observed in the artist’s historically Black neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles— that together result in an architectural container of community archives and histories.
By adapting elements of ancient Egyptian architecture and sculpture for a contemporary context, Halsey’s commission redeploys the hieroglyph as a tool for documenting and commemorating how community vitality and genre-defying creativity shape the built environments of South Central Los Angeles.
The Roof Garden Commission: Lauren Halsey was conceived by the artist in consultation with Sheena Wagstaff, former Leonard A. Lauder Chair of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Abraham Thomas, Daniel Brodsky Curator of Modern Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts, both of The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. It is the tenth in a series of site-specific commissions for the outdoor space.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication that will include an interview between Halsey and poet, performer, and librettist Douglas Kearney; and an essay by Thomas.
The catalogue is made possible by the Mary and Louis S. Myers Foundation Endowment Fund.
Related education programs will include experiences—from hands-on activities to live performance—that engage with and respond to the artist’s work, as well as concepts of place, home, and popular culture.
About the Artist
Lauren Halsey (b. 1987, Los Angeles) rethinks the possibilities for art, architecture, and community engagement. She produces both stand-alone artworks and site-specific projects, particularly in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, where her family has lived for several generations. Combining found, fabricated, and handmade objects, Halsey’s work maintains a sense of civic urgency and free-flowing imagination, reflecting the lives of the people and places around her and addressing the crucial issues confronting people of color, queer populations, and the working class. Critiques of gentrification and disenfranchisement are accompanied by real-world proposals as well as a celebration of on-the-ground aesthetics. Inspired by Afrofuturism and funk, as well as the signs and symbols that populate her local environments, Halsey creates a visionary form of culture that is at once radical and collaborative.
Halsey was awarded Seattle Art Museum’s 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the museum in 2022. She has presented solo shows at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2021); David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2020); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2019); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018). Halsey participated in Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, where she was awarded the Mohn Award for artistic excellence. Her work is in the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2020, Halsey founded Summaeverythang Community Center, and she is currently in the process of developing a major public monument for construction in South Central Los Angeles. Halsey lives and works in Los Angeles.
About The Roof Garden Commission
The Roof Garden Commission series was established in 2013 by The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. The series of site-specific commissions on The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden has featured work by Imran Qureshi (2013), Dan Graham (2014), Pierre Huyghe (2015), Cornelia Parker (2016), Adrián Villar Rojas (2017), Huma Bhabha (2018), Alicja Kwade (2019), Héctor Zamora (2020), and, most recently, Alex Da Corte (2021).
The Roof Garden Commission: Lauren Halsey is on view until October 22, 2023 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art located at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City.