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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 5, 2007

Image: Laylah Ali. Untitled, 2005. Ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist and 303 Gallery, New York

Laylah Ali drawings will be at UI Museum of Art Oct. 20 to Jan. 6

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) will show 23 drawings by of one of the country's most celebrated and enigmatic contemporary artists in the exhibition "Laylah Ali: Drawings from the Typology Series," which will be on display Oct. 20 through Jan. 6, 2008.

Ali will present a public lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Auditorium of Art Building West (ABW 240). A reception in the artist's honor will be held at the UIMA after the lecture, starting around 8 p.m. The lecture and the reception are open to the public free of charge.

Patrons should enter the museum through the new permanent entrance, on the east side of the building facing the Iowa River. The new entrance leads into the museum's Nancy and Craig Willis Atrium.

Ali, perhaps best known for her startling green-faced figures in gouache on paper, has emerged as one of the most important artistic voices in recent years for the insights her work offers into the power struggles of race and the shifting perceptions of identity. Drawings in the current exhibition recall the 19th-century racist pseudo-science of "typology," with which scientists attributed physiological characteristics and personality traits to the global races.

"Ali's latest work speaks to a fundamental question that resonates profoundly in this era of globalization," said Alex Baker, curator of contemporary art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and curator of the show. "Her work highlights the ethnic and cultural divides that permeate our contemporary world."

Ali has created intimate drawings in ink on paper, inviting viewers to draw meaning from the figures she creates. They are beings that share some similarities with humans but whose clothing, facial expressions, postures and movements are confounding and disorienting. By playing with the figures' hairstyle, body type, dress and physical limitations, she opens up a litany of questions into how all humans create and interpret identity.

The show, which is accompanied by a 52-page catalog, has recently been seen at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and will travel to the University of Arizona in Tucson after it leaves the UIMA.

Ali is currently an associate professor at Williams College in Massachusetts. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and is an alumna of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has exhibited her work at galleries across the country, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Mass MOCA in North Adams, Mass.; and the New York-based 303 Gallery.

This exhibition is open to the public free of charge.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, Museum of Art, 319-335-1739,; Peter Alexander, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0072 (office), 319-541-2846 (cell),