Ugly Beauties

This work is part of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Design Installation, an umbrella initiative; learn more about it here.

This work is part of Common Build, an umbrella initiative; learn more about it here.


    On view through May 2, Curry J. Hackett's Ugly Beauties envisions abundant urban futures that center Black communities.

    About Ugly Beauties

    March 8–May 2, 2024

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland, Brooklyn

    Curry J. Hackett’s Ugly Beauties champions Black resilience, celebrating the belonging of both Black people and spontaneous plant growth in urban environments. Made of construction netting and steel scaffolding, Ugly Beauties features images of Black people juxtaposed with native and invasive plant species — so-called “weeds” — that flourish in New York City, prompting viewers to consider society’s perception of beauty and belonging. Dandelion, yarrow, burdock, and other wild plants all bear ecological and cultural value, yet are commonly dismissed as weeds. In Ugly Beauties, however, their beauty is championed in a lush collage of imaginary weedy worlds, celebrated in parades, dinner parties, costume designs, and churches.

    Ugly Beauties borrows its name from Thelonious Monk’s haunting ballad: a subtle invitation for views to explore the harmonies between the “uglies” and beauties in their streets and backyards. The tapestry is one of visual jazz — a rich composite made with artificial intelligence using Midjourney’s text-to-image generator.

    Ugly Beauties is part of Van Alen Institute’s Common Build program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space. The installation is co-produced by Van Alen Institute and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Presented with support from Two Trees Management Co.

    Lighting design by Jelisa Blumberg. Lighting by Jamaul Douglas, scaffolding by Steel Construction LLC, and mesh by Britten Inc.

    About Curry J. Hackett

    Curry J. Hackett is a transdisciplinary designer, public artist, and educator. His practice, Wayside, looks to undertold histories to inspire meaningful art and critical research. Recently, Curry has been experimenting with artificial intelligence tools, with which he braids Black aesthetics, kinships with nature, and pop culture to imagine surreal scenes of Black joy. This work has been featured widely, most notably in Bloomberg and Architect Magazine. His ongoing research project, titled Drylongso, explores relationships between Blackness, geography, and land. This project has received funding the Graham Foundation, Journal of Architectural Education, and Washington Project for the Arts. Curry earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University, and is currently completing his Master of Architecture in Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    Curry J. Hackett

    Designer, Artist, and Educator

    Visitor Info

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.

    Tag us in your photos! @curryhackett | @van_alen | @downtownbrooklyn


    Time Out New York

    ‘Ugly Beauties’ by Curry J. Hackett

    Time Out New York

    The best outdoor art in NYC this spring

    Brooklyn Magazine


    Brooklyn Eagle

    AI-Generated ‘Ugly Beauties’ on Display in D’town Brooklyn