Visual Arts Program

Friday, November 10, 2017 — Friday, December 22, 2017

Laylah Ali

Paintings and Drawings

Laylah Ali - Paintings and Drawings
Laylah Ali - Paintings and Drawings
Laylah Ali - Paintings and Drawings

Opening Reception: Friday, November 10, 2017, 8 to 11 pm
Artist's Talk: Friday, November 10, 2017, 8pm

Hallwalls is pleased to welcome back Buffalo-born artist Laylah Ali for a new exhibition of paintings and drawings, twenty-two years after her first solo exhibition at Hallwalls.

Laylah Ali's work explores power dynamics and interpersonal conflict through compositions that position culturally, racially and sexually ambiguous figures in precarious, loaded, and unexpectedly humorous situations. Ali uses concise—even minimal—imagery that is specific in rendering and intent. While there are narratives in Ali's work, they are stories whose open spaces often give them the atmosphere of fables.

The exhibition will include both work from her most recent group of acrylic and gouache paintings, The Acephalous Series, and a selection of drawings never before exhibited. In The Acephalous Series, Ali has introduced new narratives comprised of a fraught community of figures, including those with minimal bodies, some who lack heads, or appear to be on an endless, determined trek.

All of the potent formal gestures within her paintings are as acutely revealed in her drawings. In the larger monochrome drawings in this exhibition, Ali's elastic line treatment demonstrates both persistent fragility and stability. Finely-rendered marks, sometimes as wispy as hairs, culminate into images that evoke potency and strength. In many of the smaller, colored-marker drawings in the exhibition, Ali's deft sense of characterization remains evident. Expressions of anxiety and pathos abound, alternatively humorous and harrowing.

The exhibition will be accompanied by two limited-run artists' books—one for the paintings (including an interview with the poet by Lillian Yvonne-Bertram), and one for the drawings.

Laylah Ali was born in Buffalo, New York in 1968 and lives and works in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Her most famous and longest-running series of paintings depict brown-skinned and gender-neutral Greenheads and have been included in the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Whitney Biennial (2004) and were the subject of a major touring exhibition in 2012-2013 that originated at the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA and traveled to the Weisman Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Ali's works are included in the permanent collections of numerous public institutions, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, among many others. Her work has also been featured in the PBS series on contemporary art, Art21.