Lauren Halsey: exploration of monuments, memorials, and public space25/01/2020 - 14/03/2020
This is Lauren Halsey’s first show at the gallery David Kordansky, filling it with a vivid, mythopoetic hauntscape of South Central Los Angeles. Featuring sculptural painting installations, this exhibition of new work by Halsey is on view through March 14, 2020. These latest works continue Halsey’s exploration of monuments, memorials, and public space, particularly her reckonings with gentrification and the threatening economic displacement of Black and Latino/a stores and shops.
Lauren Halsey (b. 1987, Los Angeles) is rethinking the possibilities for art, architecture, and community engagement. She produces both standalone 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, Lauren 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 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.
“The works in this show constitute Halsey’s recollected spectral metro. More a map of ghosts than an exercise in urban planning. The vivid boxes, like platonic ideas of buildings, can’t be entered. What’s more, many of the businesses commemorated on them are gone now, thus inaccessible. Halsey isn’t reproducing South Central Los Angeles, or even trying to render her own version of it. Instead, via glyphic narratives, the self-reflection of her mythography, visual samples of uprising tags from 1965 and 1992, and her vivid abstracting of the business reproductions, she creates structures that ask us to see how she remembers what’s being erased. These monuments bid us remember: the past has come and gone; the present is already too late.
According to Douglas Kearney, “The memorial and the monumental intersect in Halsey’s blocks—as they do on the blocks on which she lives and where some of the businesses Halsey references are “fortified and strong,” while others are shuttered. Graffiti indicates and recalls, announces, and at times, eulogizes. A close examination of several of the works’ surfaces reveals that in addition to paint, Halsey is making inscriptions in pencil. Here, she is taking up the techniques—if not materials—many tag writers use in her neighborhood. Graffiti written thusly is less noticeable and less costly to remove; each work demonstrates an anticipation of erasure.”
In 2019, Lauren Halsey was the subject of a solo exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; she was also the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2018. She won the 2018 Mohn Award, given by the Hammer Museum to an artist participating in its Made in L.A. biennial exhibition. Other recent group exhibitions include It’s Urgent!, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2019); Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture, Center for Architecture, New York (2018); PopRally TEN, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016); Radio Imagination: Artists in the Archive of Octavia E. Butler, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California (2016); and Everything, Everyday: Artists in Residence 2014–2015, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015).