No. 469: Alia Ali, the Zealy daguerreotypes

Episode No. 469 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist Alia Ali and historian Molly Rogers.

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Alia Ali’s work is on view at two US art museums — one that’s open, and one that’s waiting a governmental OK.

In Louisiana, the New Orleans Museum of Art is exhibiting “Alia Ali: FLUX” through November 15. Alia’s “FLUX” series uses wax print fabric — a textile with roots in three continents — to examine colonialism, migration, economic systems and more. The exhibition was curated by Katie Pfohl.

The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College is showing Alia Ali’s work in a “projects series” exhibition. Like other Los Angeles County museums, the Benton is closed to the public as a result of the pandemic. However, the county seems to be moving toward allowing re-openings in the next month or so, and the Benton has plans to offer visits by appointment in the near future. The Benton will offer four bodies of Ali’s work, three at the museum and one which is will soon be streaming on the Benton’s website.

Ali’s work addresses politicization of the human body, colonialism, imperialism and sexism in photographs, installations sound and video that prominently feature textiles. Ali is, as she puts it on her website, “a Yemeni-Bosnian-US multi-media artist [who has] traveled to 67 countries, lived in and between seven, and [who has] grown up among five languages.”

Along with Ilisa Barbash and Deborah Willis, Rogers is the editor of “To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes.” The book, which was co-published by Aperture and Peabody Museum Press, provides a broad historical and artistic consideration of fifteen daguerreotypes of two enslaved women and five enslaved men acquired by Harvard professor Louis Agassiz in support of his notion that Black men and women were inferior to whites. The book includes essays by historians such as Gregg Hecimovich, Matthew Fox-Amato, Manisha Sinha, and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and a 64-page presentation of new photography by Carrie Mae Weems. The book is available through Aperture, Amazon and Indiebound for around $50-60. The Peabody Museum has made several chapters available for free. The Zealy daguerreotypes may be viewed at the Peabody’s website.

Rogers is the author of “Delia’s Tears: Race, Science, and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America” and the associate director of the Center for the Humanities at New York University.

Project participants previously on The Modern Art Notes Podcast include Carrie Mae Weems (2012) and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis (2016).

Air date: October 29, 2020.

Installation view of Alia Ali, Love, 2020.

Alia Ali, BORDERLAND Series, 2017.

Alia Ali, BORDERLAND Series, 2017.

Alia Ali, Blue Pearls, FLUX Series, 2019.

Alia Ali, Crystalinks, FLUX Series, 2019.

Alia Ali, Throb, FLUX Series, 2019.

Alia Ali, VI, UNDER THREAD, 2019.

Alia Ali, VIII, UNDER THREAD, 2019.

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