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Installation view of Alia Ali's site-specific installation of Love with 5 photographs on blue wall with patterns of Love painted in Arabic

Alia Ali: حب / Love
Project Series 53

On View September 1, 2020 – May 22, 2022

Alia Ali: حب  / Love (2020) is a major new installation by the Yemeni-Bosnian-US artist. The installation was part of the exhibition Alia Ali: Project Series 53 (September 1, 2020–May 29, 2020).

Commissioned by the Benton and installed in the lobby, the حب  / Love installation features the Arabic word for love— حب—repeated across photographs of veiled figures and the hand-painted wall. With this act of linguistic reclamation, Ali subverts the stereotypes of the Arabic language that link it solely to geopolitical conflict. Layered into the folds of the veils, the language becomes a pattern and the textiles become a language, underscoring how motifs function both visually and linguistically.

The artist notes in her essay in the accompanying publication, “The  Arabic  words  طالب  (roman:  talib / student)  and  مدرسة (roman: madrassa / school) have been abducted and propagandized  by  the  US  media  to  mean  terrorist  and  religious  training  school.  As  a  gesture  of  linguistic  reclamation,  the  photographic series حب  /  Love  (roman:  hub)  presents  the  Arabic  word  for  love to non-Arabophones to recognize, read, and spread.”

In her work, Ali explores themes of diaspora, colonialism, violence, history, migration, and identity and Afro- and Yemeni Futurism. Informed by the artist’s own transnational and multilingual upbringing, theحب  / Love installation reflects Ali’s belief in the conceptual complexity of geopolitical conflict and the price exacted by such conflicts on individuals. Ali’s clear-eyed approach to these conflicts is not without hope, though, and is rooted in awareness, acknowledgment, and activism.

Catalogue cover for Alia Ali's exhibition with glossed Arabic writing on green and black design

Alia Ali: Project Series 53

Introduction by Rebecca McGrew and Daphnide Toussaint, essays by Alia Ali and Michael Rakowitz. Design by Kimberly Varella of Content Object with Sam Wagner and David Evans Frantz

This publication is supported in part by the Pasadena Art Alliance.


Book 1:

حب / Love, 2020
Mixed media installation with five pigment prints on Photo Rag paper
with UV protective laminate, mounted on aluminum Dibond
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Sillem

 مهجر / Mahjar, 2020
Multi-channel digital video projection
Color, sound, 14 min. (loop)
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Sillem

 النجم الاحمر / The Red Star, 2020
Mixed media installation

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Sillem

Book 2:

Conflict Is More Profitable Than Peace, 2019–ongoing
Stills from digital video, color, sound, 18 min.



Alia Ali عاليه علي is a Yemeni-Bosnian-US multi-media artist. Having traveled to sixty-seven countries, lived in and between seven, and grown up among five languages, her most comfortable mode of communication is through photography, video, and installation. Her travels have led her to process the world through interactive experiences and the belief that the damage of translation and interpretation of written language has dis-served particular communities, resulting in the threat of their exclusion, rather than a means of understanding. Ali's work reflects on the politics of contested notions of linguistics, identity, borders, universality, colonization, mental/physical confinement, and the inherent dualism that exists in each of them.

Her work has been featured in the Financial Times, Le Monde, Vogue, and Hyperallergic. Ali has won numerous awards and has exhibited internationally at Galerie Peter Sillem in Frankfurt, Galerie Siniya 28 in Marrakech, Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, PhotoLondon, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the Lianzhou Photo Festival in China, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam in the Netherlands, the Katzen Museum of Art in Washington DC, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College. Ali also serves on the board of Clockshop in Los Angeles, California.

Alia Ali lives and works in Los Angeles and Marrakech, and is currently in residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program (RAiR) in Roswell, New Mexico.

Curators and Sponsor

Alia Ali: حب  / Love is curated by Senior Curator Rebecca McGrew, and is accompanied by a publication and is supported by the Pasadena Art Alliance and the Eva Cole and Clyde Matson Memorial Fund.