L.A. Artist Lauren Halsey’s ‘Afrofuturistic, Ancient, Funkified Space Ship’ Has Landed on the Met Roof

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One glance at Lauren Halsey’s monumental rooftop commission at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and you’ll begin to understand why the exhibition was bumped back by a year due to logistics.

Using 750 glass-fiber-reinforced concrete tiles, the 35-year-old artist has managed to construct a 22-foot-tall structure that resembles an Egyptian-style temple. Four large-scale sphinx statues—their faces portraits of Halsey’s immediate family members and her life partner—serve as guardians, standing watch outside the open-sided space, which visitors can walk through.

Like the pyramids, the piece is designed with permanence in mind, and it will transported across the country following the run of the show, to a new home in Halsey’s native South Central Los Angeles, where she lives and works. The artist hopes the sculpture will become a civic monument at her Summaeverythang community center, as well as a record of the place in the face of increasingly encroaching forces of gentrification.

Delaying the show which was first announced last March meant that “it became more ambitious, more meaningful, more important,” according to Met director Max Hollein, speaking at the exhibition press preview. The off-white cube and its surrounding free-standing columns loom over Central Park in an atmospheric mist. (Last summer was the first time since 2013 the Met did not host a rooftop commission.)

Lauren Halsey. Photo by Russell Hamilton, courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York.

Lauren Halsey. Photo by Russell Hamilton. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York.

The walls of the cube are covered with more than 700 panels decorated with imagery pulled from Black-owned businesses, graffiti tags, and other street signage from Halsey’s home in South Central Los Angles. The references may stem from California, but they resonate from their perch overlooking the urban jungle of New York City. There are protest signs, advertisements for Black hair styles, as well as images pulled from objects in the Met collection that mesh the ancient with the present-day.

“It’s a dense collage of phrases and images all drawn from a local vernacular,” said Abraham Thomas, the curator of Modern architecture, design, and decorative arts. He described the piece, titled , as “an Afrofuturistic, ancient, funkified space ship that’s just landed here at the Met.”

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, (2022), installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. © Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This otherworldly vessel’s tiles recall the graffiti scrawled on the Met’s Temple of Dendur, but it also serves as a present-day archive of her own time and place, elevating the history of her local Black community and celebrating the neighborhood’s vitality.

“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,” Halsey said in a statement. “My hope is that viewers in New York feel the connections intuitively.”

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lauren Halsey, , 2022, installation view at the Roof Garden Commission. ©Lauren Halsey. Courtesy of the artist; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles/New York. Photo by Hyla Skopitz, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

 

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