|Born||1968 (age 50–51)|
|Education||(MFA) Washington University|
(BA) Williams College
|The Greenheads Series|
|Awards||2008 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant|
2007 United States Artists Fellowship
2002 William H. Johnson Prize
2001 Premio Regione Piemonte (Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Per L’Arte,Turin, Italy)
2000 ICA Artist Prize (Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts)
Early life and education
In her youth, Ali originally intended to be a lawyer or a doctor.
Ali received her B.A. (English and Studio Art) from Williams College, Williamstown, MA in 1991. She participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City in 1992, and completed a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME in 1993. Ali received her M.F.A. in 1994 from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. She lives and works in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and is currently a professor at Williams College.
In Ali's earlier work, she would draw or paint something violent. She focused more on the action, than the violence itself. In her current work, there is not a lot of focus on the act; she is more attentive to what happens before and after.
The works are small scale gouache paintings and drawings on paper. She is known to prepare for many months, planning out every detail so there is no room for mistakes. Ali's work is based on life experiences. Although one may not be able to tell, she says all of her work holds meaning and that what's in her mind transcends from her hands on paper. About the performative nature of her work, Ali says, "The paintings can be like crude stages or sets, the figures like characters in a play. I think of them equally as characters and figures."
The Greenheads Series
The subject of Ali's most well-known gouache paintings are the Greenheads – characters designed to minimize or eliminate categorical differences of gender, height, age, and in some ways race. Ali created more than 80 of these paintings between 1996 and 2005. Ali drew on imagery and topics from newspapers, such as images of protest signs or world leaders hugging, but tweaked the stories in order to create something distant and new. Ali designed the characters and images to be specific and yet vague. They have meaning from Ali herself but the viewer brings their own references to interpret the image as well. Ali designed the characters to look human-like but not quite human so that they would be removed from our world and social context. They have a socio-political meaning yet they exist outside of our world.
Since 2015, Ali has been working on a series of paintings she calls Acephalous, featuring figures she describes as gender conscious, potentially sexual or sexualized, some of which have racial characteristics and some of which do not have heads. "They are on an endless, determined trek, a multi-part journey," she says. "It has elements of a forced migration."
Laylah Ali has collaborated with dancer/ choreographer Dean Moss at The Kitchen in 2005 with Figures on a Field and in 2014 with johnbrown. In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, commissioned Ali to create a wordless graphic novelette.
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 and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, among many others.
Solo and group exhibitions
- 2017: Laylah Ali: Paintings and Drawings, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY, November 10, 2017 — December 22, 2017
- 2015-2016: University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 17, 2015 – January 31, 2016
- 2015-2016: ASSISTED, Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL, September 12, 2015 – January 16, 2016
- 2015: Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, February 17–May 15, 2016
- 2015: Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, February 8–May 17
- 2015: Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA, June 12 – September 20
- 2015: The Acephalous Series, PAUL KASMIN GALLERY, New York
- 2014: Personal Histories, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 5 – May 3, 2014 Up Every Evening, Season gallery, Seattle, Washington, spring
- 2013: Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, NY.
- 2013: Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota;
- 2013: The Shadows Took Shape, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (catalog)
- 2013: Ambiguous Histories: Selected Art from the Exit Art Portfolios, Art, Design, and Architecture Museum, University of Santa Barbara, CA
- 2013: Laylah Ali & Gerald Cyrus, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design Gallery, Lancaster, PA Direct Democracy, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia (catalog)
- 2013: Painting Between the Lines, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA (catalog)
- 2013: Revelations: Examining Democracy, Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
- 2012: Thenceforward, and Forever Free, Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
- 2012: Under the Influence: The Comics, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
- 2012: The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA (catalog)
- 2011: The Air We Breathe, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (catalog)
- 2011: Painting Between the Lines, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, CA (catalog)
- 2011: Relatos extraordinarios: Laylah Ali and Abigail Lazkoz, Sala Parpallo, Valencia, Spain (catalog)
- 2011: Vivid: Female Currents in Painting, Schroeder Romero & Shredder, New York, NY
- 2010: Works on paper from the MCA collection. Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago;
- 2010: Collected: Reflections on the Permanent Collection, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
- 2009: Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art, Art Works for Change—travelled to Stenersenmuseet, Oslo, Norway (2009); University Art Gallery, University of California, San Diego, CA (2009-2010); Centro Cultural Tijuana, Mexico (2010); Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico (2010); Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL (2010); Global Health Odyssey Museum, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA (2011) Paper Trail: A Decade of Acquisitions from the Walker Art Center, Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA Massachusetts Review: Celebrating Fifty Years of Covers, University Gallery, Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA If I Didn’t Care: Generational Artists Discuss Cultural Histories, The Park School, Baltimore, MD
- 2008: Laylah Ali: Notes/Drawings/Untitled Afflictions, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum: August 30, 2008 - January 4, 2009
- 2008: Beyond Drawing: Constructed Realities, Ohio University Art Gallery, Athens Fantastical Imaginings, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington— travelled to Julio Fine Arts Gallery, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore (2009); Political Circus, Florida Atlantic University, Ritter Art Gallery, Boca Raton; On the Margins, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri (catalog); Disguised, Rotwand Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland; Out of Shape, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (catalog)
- 2008: Taking Possession, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Perverted by Theater, Apex Art, New York, NY; Pandora's Box, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (catalog)
- 2008: U-turn Quadrennial for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, Denmark (catalog)
- 2007: the kiss and other warriors. Institute of International Visual Arts, London;
- 2006: Alien Nation, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London—traveled to Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, England; Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, England (catalog) Cult Fiction, Hayward Gallery, London, England (catalog)
- 2006: Counterparts: Contemporary Painters and Their Influences, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA (catalog) Running Around the Pool, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee. FL (catalog) XXS, Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel American Matrix, Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL Black Alphabet, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (catalog) Having New Eyes, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO
- 2005: The Body. The Ruin, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia (catalog) Cut, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, CA Vivi-Seccion: Dibujo Contemporaneo, Museo de Arte Carillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico
- 2004: Whitney Biennial 2004, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (catalog) Material Witness, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH (catalog) The 10 Commandments, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany
- 2004: Laylah Ali: Types. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis;
- 2003: Crosscurrents at Century’s End: Selections from the Neuberger Berman Art Collection, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA—travelled to Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL (catalog)
- 2003: Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (catalog)
- 2003: me & more, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (catalog)
- 2003: Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Cartoons in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX—traveled to Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (catalog)
- 2002: Projects 75: Laylah Ali. Museum of Modern Art, New York;
- 2002: Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—traveled to Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA; University of North Texas Gallery, Denton; Western Washington University, Bellingham (catalog) Fantasyland, D’Amelio Terras, New York, NY First Person Singular, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA Painting in Boston, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA
- 2001: Laylah Ali. Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston;
- 2001: Against the Wall: Painting Against the Grid, Surface, Frame, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, PA Freestyle, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (catalog)
- 2001: FRESH: The Altoids Curiously Strong Collection 1998-2000, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY Guarene Arte 2001, Palazzo Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy
- 2001: A Work in Progress: Selections from the New Museum Collection, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY
- 2000: Art on Paper 2000, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
- 1999: Bizarro World! The Parallel Universes of Comics and Fine Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL Collectors Collect Contemporary, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA The 1999 DeCordova Annual Exhibition, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA (catalog)
- 1999: No Place Rather than Here, 303 Gallery, New York, NY
- 1998: Paradise 8, Exit Art, New York, NY Posing, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA Selections Summer 1998, The Drawing Center, New York, NY Telling Tales, Atrium Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Ali has been awarded a number of grants, residencies and awards, including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2008, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Residency in 2018, and the United States Artists Residency.
- Baker, Alex (2007) Laylah Ali: Typology. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. p. 47. ISBN 9780943836300
- Cotter, Holland (2000). "ART IN REVIEW; Laylah Ali" (June 30). The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- "Laylah Ali on Greenheads, Violence in Art, and More". BU Today. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
- "Paul Kasmin Gallery - Laylah Ali". paulkasmingallery.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
- "Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series". museum.cornell.edu. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- Sollins, Susan (2005). Art 21: art in the 21st century 3. Purchase College. p. 28. ISBN 081095916X.
- "Laylah Ali". www.pbs.org. ART21, Inc. 2001–2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- "Juxtapoz Magazine - Laylah Ali: Bodies in Notion". www.juxtapoz.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
- Ali, Laylah. "Interview." Laylah Ali. By Rebecca Walker. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2001.
- Ali, Laylah; Rothschild, Deborah; Museum of Art. (2012). Laylah Ali, the Greenheads series: [accompanies the exhibition "Laylah Ali: the Greenheads series" presented at Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, August 18 - November 25, 2012; Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, March 2 - June 30, 2013; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, September 7 - December 22, 2013. S.l.: s.n. ISBN 9780913697306.
- Cornuelle, Kimberly (4 November 2010). "Laylah Ali on Greenheads, Violence in Art, and More". Boston University. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- "The Believer - Interview with Laylah Ali". The Believer. 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
- "Paul Kasmin Gallery - Laylah Ali". paulkasmingallery.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
- Ali, Laylah; DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (2008-01-01). Laylah Ali: note drawings. [Lincoln, MA?]: Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park. ISBN 9780945506591.
- Foundation, Joan Mitchell. "Joan Mitchell Foundation » Artist Programs » Artist Grants". joanmitchellfoundation.org. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
- "Joan Mitchell Foundation Names Artists for Its 2018 Residency Program". www.artforum.com. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
- "United States Artists Taps Baltimore-based Deana Haggag as President and CEO | Culture Type". www.culturetype.com. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
- Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, 2012. ISBN 9780913697306