Arraignment of (left to right) John A. Copeland, Shields Green, John Brown, Edwin Coppoc and Aaron Stevens (supported by guards) for inciting slaves
to rebel, treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, and murder. Drawing by David H. Strother (pseudonym "Porte Crayon") in Harper's Weekly,
November 12, 1859.
As evinced in her darkly suggestive gouache-on-paper paintings, Laylah Ali's work often engages with questions of oppression, heroism, and emancipation. With undeniable wit, Ali crafts visceral narratives that evoke culturally and historically referential moments. For her Dia commission, Ali gives focus to the radical abolitionist John Brown by composing a portrait of associations to consider the contemporary impact of this complex and elusive historical figure.
Laylah Ali was born in Buffalo, New York. She has had numerous solo exhibitions at institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Institute of International Visual Arts, London; Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota; and an upcoming exhibition at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in September 2013.