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The Work of Layla Ali

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The implicit violence, frozen narratives, and pared-down, comic-book aesthetic of Layla Ali's gouache-and-ink drawings present an ambiguous place where civilization and psychology meet. Psycho-political situations are suggested, but rarely acted out, by figures dressed in costumes derived from superhero wear and sports gear, garb reminiscent of outfits worn by the KKK, the Pope, and Coptic priests. Who are they? What are they doing? Their gender neutralized by unisex costumes, their race neutralized by green-colored skin, Ali has created a tight, contained, strangely compelling hand-drawn world in which questions are unanswerable, narratives refuse to go forward, and yet everything is eerily perfect.

Layla Ali was born in 1968 in Buffalo, New York. Her work has been exhibited at the ICA Boston, MassMOCA, the Studio Museum, Harlem, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

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