Laylah Ali to be presented |
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Williamstown, Mass. – The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is pleased to present Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series. The exhibition will be on view from August 18 to November 25, 2012. It is the first time the Greenheads series—created between 1996 and 2005—will be shown as a comprehensive body of work. Over forty of these exquisitely rendered gouache paintings—from a total of more than eighty—have been gathered from collections here and abroad to chronicle the series’ development.
The figures inhabiting Ali’s works—the Greenheads—are enigmatic round-headed beings of indeterminate sex and race who inhabit a regimented, dystopian world where odd and menacing, though sometimes strangely humorous, encounters prevail.
The WCMA exhibition will allow viewers to examine the evolution of Ali’s series. While the early paintings frequently focus on physically aggressive exchanges between groups of figures, these interactions are later replaced by individuals—alone or in small groups—who witness the prelude to, or aftermath of, a charged encounter. As the series continues, more and more of the figures’ anatomy is pruned away, as if the artist is examining how much can be taken out—such as arms, feet, skin color—while still communicating thought, emotion, and social status.
Guest curator Deborah Rothschild writes, “Onto these timeless, genderless figures we can project a multitude of scenarios encompassing anything from schoolyard bullying to racial crimes from our national past and present, to tragedies issuing from modern war zones. The fact that we are often not certain who is perpetrator and who is victim, who is in power and who is powerless, keeps the viewer in an uneasy and active role as interpreter of these charged narrative works. Threaded through this body of work are elements of dark humor and references to popular culture. And the works are all the more unsettling because of their beauty as paintings.”
In 2013, Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series will travel to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.