THE INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART/BOSTON


 
Laylah Ali

 BORN 1968 | BUFFALO, NY


Currently, this work is not on view to the public. 

Untitled (Greenheads), 1998
Gouache on paper
9 x 10 inches
Promised gift of Barbara Lee


Untitled is part of Laylah Ali’s Greenheads series, which is populated by her signature androgynous figures. They act like hieroglyphs, telling stories with maximum impact and minimal details. In this work, a central figure is carried by two masked figures that look around furtively. While their cartoon-like appearance is initially enticing, a closer look at the open-ended scene reveals a sinister undercurrent. Ali, who lives and works in Williamstown, MA, was awarded the 2000 ICA Artist Prize and was featured in a solo exhibition at the museum in 2001.

 

Currently, this work is not on view to the public.

Untitled, 2005
Gouache and acrylic on paper
7.1 x 5.1 inches 
Gift of Tristin and Martin Mannion
2006.3


Untitled illustrates a new direction that Ali has taken since her Greenheads series. The figures are reminiscent of the Greenheads, yet display new levels of detail and pattern, in situations that are even more ambiguous and confounding. This scene implies violence, though we see only its mysterious and brutal aftermath. Yet, as the image is rendered in Ali’s cartoon or comic book style, it is simultaneously infused with humor and absurdity.

 


Currently, this work is not on view to the public.

Untitled, 2002
Gouache and pencil on paper
11 x 9 inches 
Promised gift of Alec Terrana


This drawing shows the new characters Ali has developed in her most recent work. The figures are reminiscent of the Greenheads, with bug eyes, simplified bodies, and pointy black boots. This scene depicts a somber child being scolded by someone, perhaps his mother. While Untitled is a bit less serious in tone and has a looser technique than Ali’s painstakingly composed paintings, it retains her characteristically inviting openendedness. As in all of Ali’s work, the cartoon style initially charms and disarms viewers, drawing them into a world fraught with tension and mystery.

 


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