Los Angeles, CA–Lauren Halsey weaves the historic representations of South Central through experimental architecture in a funky, afro-futuristic way.
Her art style incorporates the imagery of mom-and-pop businesses in her community, to familiar staples she grew up seeing every day and the people she loves most in her community.
These representations were on full display at her most recent art exhibit at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles last month. The gallery was a slight maze composed of glass and rows of large blocks, with over 40 cubes and prisms Lauren painted to create life size structures of signs and images synonymous with Black L.A.
One of the main attractions besides the exhibit itself, was Lauren’s Black History Wall of Respect. It was made up entirely of glass with the images of various historic figures and South Central leaders engraved.
She wanted to pay homage to those who have lived in the community and throughout history who have made lasting contributions to better the collective.
The rapid gentrification and displacement of Black Los Angeles is something that makes Lauren reflect often on the future of the South Central community she grew up in. Lauren’s family has deep ties to the community dating back to the 1920s, when her paternal grandmother arrived in South Central with her family.
Lauren is no stranger to gentrification or what she refers to as the “oppressive infrastructure and forces that are literally deleting and erasing black and brown folks.” She witnessed the affects of gentrification first hand living in Harlem and Miami’s Little Haiti.
Lauren is currently envisioning ways to create a giant structure as a “monument to us” and decided to try and partner with the Black Worker Center in Los Angeles. Her goal is to empower Black labor through the art piece.
“I went to the Black Worker Center to find Black workers, Black carpenters, Black sub contractors, Black general contractors just black labor. Spending so much time with the past director, Lola, she taught me that we just don’t exist in the construction workforce and that diversity doesn’t just mean Black,” Lauren detailed.
In a city like Los Angeles with a deep history of redlining, steering, residential segregation, institutional racism and extreme violence by police, establishing businesses allowed some form of success and autonomy from the oppressive structure for Black Angelenos.
However, the mom-and-pop stores that Lauren and her cousins grew up visiting are slowly diminishing.
“I knew that it would have to be a project that financially empowers and affirms our labor and supports us on a very high level. Instead of just, oh, that’s a structure of a Black person. For me, that’s just not enough and that would be so irresponsible.”
A graduate of the California Institute of the Arts as well as Yale University, Lauren has experienced the balance required to retain a sense of self, while operating in spaces that are not necessarily established for your growth as an individual based on your lived experiences.
With former professional basketball dreams, Lauren started her educational journey at El Camino College, taking every class she could afford from creative writing, history, to sculpting.
Architecture was Lauren’s main goal because she was intrigued with the idea of creating spaces centered around Blackness. However, she realized that her dyslexia was creating barriers towards her goals.
She promised herself that she would use art as a tool to help financially empower her community and provide tools for them to have more agency and presence in steering what was happening around them in the City of Los Angeles.
So far, Lauren’s exhibits have been held at the The Hammer Museum (2018), The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (2018), Community Coalition (2017) and The Studio Museum in Harlem (2015).
Lauren also released a collaboration shoe with Nike earlier this year.
Facilitating empowerment through representation and resiliency is key for Lauren. This is why she is grateful she had the opportunity to interview Nipsey Hussle before he was killed.
Local rapper and businessman, Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom was a prime example of the power of resiliency.
“He is a symbol of autonomy, a symbol of work ethic, a symbol of dreaming and creating space at a very large scale,” Lauren expressed.
Photo: Lauren Halsey Instagram