The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Laylah Ali: Drawings from the Typology Series

Laylah Ali Untitled, 2005

January 31, 2008 – March 23, 2008

In Drawings from the Typology Series, critically acclaimed artist Laylah Ali (b. 1968, Buffalo, NY) presents meticulously rendered and ornately patterned black and white images of characters culled from an imaginary anthropology. As an extension of her distinctive gouache paintings, Ali’s new works in ink and colored pencil engage traditions of identification and classification based on observable physical traits. Curated by Alex Baker, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which organized the traveling presentation, Laylah Ali: Drawings from the Typology Series opened at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and traveled to the University of Iowa Museum of Art before its presentation at UAMA from January 31 through March 23, 2008.

Deceptively whimsical, Laylah Ali’s paintings and drawings offer keenly suggestive analyses of power, oppression, and subjugation — often in ways that implicate gender and racial identity. While the artist’s earlier work (1999 to 2004) delved into the moral turpitude and physical violence of group dynamics and power-plays, Ali has recently shifted focus to the myriad ways in which identity becomes manifest — through clothing, hairstyle, skin color, physical prowess or limitation.

Ali’s figures ask that viewers supply their own stories in response to questions of race, class, gender, and power they raise. The issue of race has long had a presence in the artist’s oeuvre, though it has moved from allegories of race relations in America to an all-encompassing investigation through outrageously hybridized figures, presenting characteristics derived from both Western and non-Western cultures. While ambiguous in reference to a particular origin or circumstance, her work comes to bear on instances of ethnic and sectarian identity — and violence predicated on such affiliations – throughout the world.

Laylah Ali has had solo exhibitions at 303 Gallery, New York; Gertrude Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne, Australia; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, among others. She has been featured in group exhibitions such as The Body, The Ruin, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia; 2004 Whitney Biennial, New York; Splat, Boom, Pow, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Texas; 2003 Venice Biennale; and Freestyle, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Ali earned a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Washington University, St. Louis; she works and lives in Willamstown, MA.


Additional information about Laylah Ali and her art is available at the PBS website 

Laylah Ali is represented by the 303 Gallery New York and Miller Block Gallery Boston