Definitely in need of an attitude adjustment.
Definitely in need of an attitude adjustment. Courtesy of SAM

Every other year since 2009, the Seattle Art Museum awards the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize to an early career Black artist who "demonstrates artistic commitment and great promise." The winner gets $10,000 in unrestricted fund$ as well as a solo exhibition in the museum's Gwendolyn Knight & Jacob Lawrence Gallery. In 2021, the award went to Los Angeles-based mixed media artist Lauren Halsey, whose work is bright, colorful, and often architectural.

Halsey brings together the ancient and contemporary to celebrate Black culture for her show at SAM. Around the edges of the gallery are large gypsum relief panels that feature "queens, pharaohs, and pyramids of ancient Egypt" as well as "people and slogans of Black culture" sourced from her neighborhood of South Central L.A. It all comes together as carvings on a modern temple. Smack dab in the middle of the show is a huge sculpture of stacked boxes featuring hand-painted, reflective, and rainbow-ombre signs that play off businesses or ads seen around her neighborhood: "Attitude Adjusta's," "Finger Wave Specialist," "Jesus Saves Gangsters Too!" While I've been a fan of Halsey's for a while, I haven't gotten a chance to see this work in person myself, but I'll report back soon...

Lauren Halsey at the Seattle Art Museum is up until July 17. See more top picks from The Stranger here.