MFA Boston Commissions New Works by Lauren Halsey and Diedrick Brackens for 2021 and 2022 Editions of "The Banner Project"

MFA Acquires Original Drawing of Birth and Rebirth and Rebirth by Inaugural Banner Project Artist Robert Pruitt

BOSTON (November 30, 2020)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announced that it has commissioned Lauren Halsey (born 1987) and Diedrick Brackens (born 1989) for the second and third editions of The Banner Project. This annual series of exhibitions engages artists to create large-scale banners that hang from the glass ceiling of the I. M. Pei-designed Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. 

Known for site-specific projects that incorporate people, structures and images of her community, Los Angeles-based Halsey rethinks possibilities for art, architecture and community engagement. The artist’s banners will be unveiled at the MFA in spring 2021.

“I am thrilled that Lauren Halsey, whose visually striking work prioritizes community and synthesizes ancient and contemporary aesthetics, will be engaging with us. I look forward to her contribution, which I know will be impactful and incisive,” said Akili Tommasino, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Brackens, also based in Los Angeles, is known for his large-scale textile works that use allegory and personal narrative to interrogate memory, history and identity. His work will appear as part of the third edition of The Banner Project, scheduled to open in 2022. 

“Massachusetts has an extensive, complex textile history, including past and present Indigenous artists, the legacies of cotton mills, and rich contemporary craft practices in this medium across New England. Long an admirer of Diedrick’s work, I am excited to see what perspectives he will bring to this project.” said Michelle Millar Fisher, Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts.

The inaugural Banner Project (October 26, 2019–December 13, 2020) featured the work of Houston-born, New York-based artist Robert Pruitt (born 1975) who is renowned for masterful, oversized figurative drawings that are embedded with cultural symbols of Africa and the African Diaspora. Pruitt’s six large-scale drawings of three Bostonians representative of three generations were reproduced on even larger double-sided banners. A central element in each diptych of portraits—one on each side of the 11-foot-high banners—is a set of 19th-century ceramic face jugs from the MFA’s collection, some of the earliest surviving aesthetic objects produced by African Americans. Pruitt’s original drawing diptych Birth and Rebirth and Rebirth (2019) has recently been acquired by the MFA.

Halsey studied at the California Institute of the Arts and earned her MFA from Yale. Incorporating found, fabricated and handmade objects, her work combines improvisation and civic urgency, reflecting the lives of the people and places around her and addressing crucial issues confronting people of color, queer populations, and the working class. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, France, and at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, which represents her. Halsey was an artist in residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her studio in LA doubles as a community center called Summaeverythang, which, since the pandemic, has served as the headquarters for the distribution of food to community members in need.

Born in Mexia, Texas, Diedrick Brackens lives and works in Los Angeles. Brackens employs techniques from West African weaving, quilting from the American South and European tapestry-making, often depicting moments of male tenderness and culling from African and African American literature, poetry and folklore as source. Beginning his process through the hand-dyeing of cotton, a material he deliberately uses in acknowledgement of its brutal history, Brackens’ oeuvre presents rich, nuanced visions of African American life and identity, while also alluding to the complicated histories of labor and migration. He received his BFA from the University of North Texas, Denton, in 2011 and his MFA from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, in 2014. He has exhibited widely, including at New York's New Museum in 2019 and at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, in 2020. He was the 2019-20 Longenecker-Roth artist in residence at the University of California San Diego in their Department of Visual Arts. 



Sarah Drumm