Lauren Halsey, The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project Sketch, 2017, digital rendering, 20 x 24 inches.

Lauren Halsey Wins 2017 William H. Johnson Prize

The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts announced today that Lauren Halsey is the recipient of this year’s William H. Johnson Prize, an annual $25,000 award that recognizes emerging African American artists. Previous prizewinners include Laylah Ali, Sanford Biggers, Jennie C. Jones, Robert A. Pruitt, and EJ Hill.

Halsey, a Los Angeles–based artist known for creating fantastical environments that reimagine the urban community, was selected for her Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project, a massive monument and participatory public art installation coming to South Los Angeles. The piece will allow the public to engrave their own stories into the surface of the monument, to share with the neighborhood. Commenting on her work, Halsey said, “I aim to empower blackness in the form of constructing spatial paradigms that amplify positivity while conjuring new perspectives of economic autonomy, self-definition, and love.”

The jury comprised Jonathan Griffin, an independent arts writer and critic; EJ Hill, an artist and the 2016 recipient of the William H. Johnson Prize; Jamillah James, a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Nicole Miller, an artist and the 2015 recipient of the William H. Johnson Prize; and Lanka Tattersall, an assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In a statement they praised “the artist’s conviction, unique and focused vision, and the urgency and timeliness of her project.” Painter Andy Robert and performance artist Autumn Knight were finalists for the prize.