1962, Brooklyn, New York
Elia Alba (born 1962, Brooklyn, New York) is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Queens, NY. Alba's work has been exhibited and screened at various national and international institutions, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; El Museo del Barrio; The RISD Museum; Valencia Institute of Modern Art, IVAM, Spain; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; ARCO, Madrid; Jersey City Museum; Science Museum, London; and ITAU Cultural Institute, São Paulo, Brazil, and the Havana Biennial.
In Alba's project, the multifaceted The Supper Club, she depicts more than 60 contemporary artists of color in portraits, each of them under a moniker based on their creative practice. The series also includes dinners where a diverse array of artists, curators, historians and collectors come together to address topics related to global blackness.
Early life and education
Elia Alba was born in Brooklyn in 1962. Her family is from the Dominican Republic. In 1994, Alba received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College and completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2001. In 2001, Alba produced works on the theme of identity and person-hood (e.g. "Doll-head, hand held"). In the late 1980s, Alba began photographing her friend's small dance company which lead to photographing other dance and opera companies throughout New York City. A few years after, Alba began working on sculpture.
Elia Alba is a multi-media artist whose work has been exhibited and screened at various national and international institutions, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; El Museo del Barrio; The RISD Museum; Valencia Institute of Modern Art, IVAM, Spain; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; ARCO, Madrid; Jersey City Museum; Science Museum, London; and ITAU Cultural Institute, São Paulo, Brazil, and the Havana Biennial.
"Informed by my mother's work in the garment industry, I began to integrate sewing techniques into my practice and eventually began to combine sewing with photography. Utilizing photo transfers on fabric to create sculptures and masks, that are utilized in staged photography and video, these objects functioned as portraits, substitute heads and bodies. The works play with notions of fantasy, surrealism, place, identity and gender. Since 1999, my work in fabric presents corporeal fragmentation that can be grotesque yet playful, presenting alternative realities and personas, where gestures, bodies, posture resist classification."
Alba was quoted in The Agora Culture stating, "When I started off as an artist, I was primarily working in abstraction, but my art slowly evolved after the birth of my son into figurative work. The 'body in art' has been the fundamental source of inspiration for my entire practice of the last 15 years, and the work that I have in my collection reflects this. Most of the works are by artist friends with whom I have made exchanges or who gifted work to me, a very nice perk of being an artist. From performance art to photography to drawing, my collection is an exploration of black, brown and queer bodies in space."
"My work is about collapsing categories and challenging them. I take references from everything around me that includes my family history, my surroundings, my friends, their experiences and histories, my travels, films, mythologies, pop culture...boundaries are fluid. Through portraiture, whether it be photography or sculpture, my goal is to create new narratives with regional and global ideologies that come together to form new ones. There is no fixed identity or place to speak of or reference to...it's an open-ended destination."
The Supper Club
Elia Alba developed The Supper Club in collaboration with Recess, a non-profit New York studio and exhibition organization. On July 2, 2013, Alba launched The Supper Club on Recess Analog. The Supper Club is a multi-faceted art project that brings together over 60 contemporary artists of color through portraiture and dialogue. Inspired by Vanity Fair Magazine's annual "Hollywood Issue," which showcases Hollywood's biggest movie stars of that year. This multi-faceted project celebrates over 60 contemporary artists of color who are documented in individual portraits with their moniker. This project also brings together a cross-section of visual artists, collectors and scholars for an intimate dinner and open conversations around race. The Supper Club is the subject of a 2019 book published by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and Hirner Verlag.
Alba began The Supper Club as a photography project and series of three conversations over dinner among artists of color about visual culture and race."The first three suppers included 50 artists, each of whom I have photographed as part of a series of portraits that uniquely depict each individual. Participants include LaToya Ruby Frazier, Coco Fusco, Dread Scott, and Derrick Adams. The dinners were recorded and transcribed."
Elia Alba explains,"in addition to the portraits, I partnered with two different arts organizations in New York City– Recess Art and The Rubin Foundation– to create a series of dinners in which these contemporary artists of color could lay down their burdens and engage in meaningful conversation about art, life, pop culture, politics and race. While the portraits create visual meaning – and in their own way seek to correct the overwhelming whitewashing of American culture in media such as Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue– the dinners are where the actual lived experiences of these artists of color can come to the forefront and be transformed into meaningful social and cultural criticism. Each dinner is audio taped and transcribed, and will become a story within the larger narrative of The Supper Club book."
Ultimately, The Supper Club project serves as a critical historical documentation of African-American, Latin American, African, South Asian and Caribbean artists as a collective group. Alba says "it is rare that so many creative voices, from so many cultural, social, political and economic backgrounds can come together in a way that clearly highlights the importance and richness of diverse critical perspectives in today's society." The Supper Club weighs in on the historical significance and the enduring power of art, food, and conversation in our everyday society.
Participating artists include: Abigail DeVille, Alejandro Guzman, Alex Rivera, Angel Otero, Arnaldo Morales, Brendan Fernandes, Carlos de Leon Sandoval, Chitra Ganesh, Clifford Owens, Coco Fusco, Dahlia Elsayed, David Antonio Cruz, Dawit Petros, Derrick Adams, Dread Scott, Firelei Baez, Hank Willis Thomas, Heather Hart, Ivan Monforte, Jacolby Satterwhite, Jaishri Abichandani, Janelle and Lisa Iglesias, Jaret Vadera, Jayson Keeling, Jeffrey Gibson, Juana Valdes, Kalup Linzy, Karina Skvirsky, Kenya Robinson, LaTasha Nevada Diggs, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Legacy Russell, Lina Puerta, Lorraine O'Grady, Marin Hassinger, Michael Paul Britto, Mickalene Thomas, Miguel Luciano, Nicolas Dumit Estevez, Nicole Awai, Niv Acosta, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Rachelle Mozman, Rafael Sanchez, Rajkamal Kahlon, Dashawn Griffin, Rico Gatson, Sanford Biggers, Saya Woolfalk, Scherezade Garcia, Iliana Garcia, Shaun Leonardo, Shinique Smith, Simone Leigh, Steffani Jemison, Wangechi Mutu, Wanda Ortiz, and Zachary Fabri.
Guests include: Andrew Russeth, Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, Cameron Welsh, Cheto Castellano, Christopher Lew, E.Carmen Ramos, Edwin Ramoran, Elisabeth Smolarz, Emily Sufrin, Eva Diaz, Geandy Pavon, John Arthur Peetz, Juan Thompson, Lissette Olivares, Maris Curran, Nicole Caruth, Omar Lopez Chahoud, Sara Reisman, Saul Ostrow, Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Yasmin Ramirez.
Elia Alba's participation in an art show titled "Do You Think I'm Disco" ignited a new interest in exploring disco DJs who paved the way for contemporary DJs. Using her own experiences in the 1980s as a club goer in New York City, Alba created the photo series "Larry Levan Live!" She hoped to discover the relationship between DJs, the music and the dancers.
Alba's photographs seek to create a link between the external appearance of a person, and their true identity. These pictures depict partygoers wearing masks with the face of Larry Levan (1954–1992), a key figure in disco. During the period, disco held a strong influence, nurtured by gay, black and Latino communities. Alba challenges the viewers' conceptions of race, gender and sexuality.
Elia Alba's artworks have been exhibited internationally at:
- Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, New York City, (2017) 
- SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York City (2016) 
- El Museo del Barrio, New York City (2015)
- Austin University, Austin, TX (2014)
- Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2013)
- The Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC (2013)
- Galleria Overfoto, Naples, IT (2010)
- 10th Havana Biannial, Havana, CU (2009)
- Black & White Gallery, New York City, NY (2009)
- Jersey City Museum, Downtown Jersey City, NJ (2003)
- Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami, FL (2003)
- Museo de Arte Moderno, Dominican Republic (2002)[non-primary source needed]
- Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (1999)
Awards and residencies
- Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) Residency (2016)
- Flying Horse Editions (2014)
- Joan Mitchell Grant (2008)
- New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant – Photography (2008)
- Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2003)
- New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant – Crafts (2002)
- Whitney Museum Van Lier Foundation Fellowship Grant (2001)
- Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (1989–1999).
- "Photographer Interview: Elia Alba – Dodge & Burn". Dodge & Burn. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- "Living with Art: From Elia Alba's Collection". The Agora Culture. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Lockward, Alanna (2007). "Pares & Nones (Evens & Odds): Invisible Equality". Small Axe. 12 (2): 83–92 – via Project Muse.
- ARC. "Dodge & Burn Interview with Elia Alba". arcthemagazine.com. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
- ARC. "ARC Magazine Issue 8 featured artist- Elia Alba". arcthemagazine.com. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- Alba, Elia. "Living with Art: From Elia Alba's Collection". The Agora Culture. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- "Elia Alba". Elia Alba. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "Recess". www.recessart.org. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- "Elia Alba: The Supper Club | Recess". www.recessart.org. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- "Analog | Recess". www.recessart.org. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- Alba, Elia. "About the Project". Tumblr. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- "The Agora Culture: Bridging The Art World's Access Gap". Forbes. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- "Statement". Elia Alba. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "Recess". www.recessart.org. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
- "Rubin Foundation – The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation". Rubin Foundation. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- "Elia Alba". Elia Alba website. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- Alba, Elia. "Larry Levan Live!". Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- "Elia Alba's Supper Club".
- l"SVA Chelsea Gallery Presents a Cultural Matrix of Sound and Images".
- "CUT N' MIX: Contemporary Collage | El Museo". www.elmuseo.org. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- "The Studio Museum in Harlem". www.studiomuseum.org. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- "Latino Art Now! Nuestra America: Expanding Perspectives in American Art". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- "Elia Alba: The Supper Club – Visual Arts Center". Retrieved January 30, 2019.
- "Elia Alba". Black & White Gallery. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- Alba, Elia. "CV" (PDF).
- Scott, Ron (1999). "Studio Museum in Harlem Holds Reception For AIR". New Voice of New York, INC. Retrieved March 5, 2017.[dead link]
- "Elia Alba – Lower Manhattan Cultural Council". Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- Foundation, Joan Mitchell. "Joan Mitchell Foundation " Artist Programs " Artist Grants". joanmitchellfoundation.org. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- "New York Foundation for the Arts". www.nyfa.org. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- "The Pollock-Krasner Foundation – The Grant". www.pkf.org. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
- "Artist Fellowship".
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