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The Bullshit Issue

From Cute To Creepy

Look at the cute little green roundheaded guys doing all the funny stuff.
Κείμενο Tierney Williams

When people look at Laylah Ali’s art they inevitably think, “Look at the cute little green roundheaded guys doing all the funny stuff. It’s like a comic book but grown up. Neat.” Then they notice that the little guys are getting their hands chopped off, wearing menacing black hoods and bandages, and having invasive surgical procedures performed on them. Then they say, “Oh shit, wait.” Ali’s simple characters tell a wordless story of power, revolution, fear, and redemption. Her art is about growing up black and not really experiencing overt racial discrimination but getting mixed messages about equality as a whole. As the iconic figures go from protests to massacres, it’s kind of hard to tell who the bad guys are, but a pervasive sense of coercion fuels everything. That’s where the “dramatic pause” comes in. Ali, who is experienced in both studio art and English literature, is as gifted a narrator as she is a painter. By stripping these works of background imagery, she makes us take the events in purely allegorical terms. And by giving the figures no specific markers of ethnicity, but still clearly creating two distinct groups, Ali gets the viewer to consider the stereotyping and classifying that we’re all complicit in—way before we have a chance to feel too creepy to think about it. TIERNEY WILLIAMS