Ala Ebtekar (b. 1978) is an artist who works between his native San Francisco Bay Area and Tehran, Iran. Born in Berkeley, California to Iranian activist/artist/architect parents, from an early age, he developed an affinity towards various notions of in-between-ness, which has led him to explore the many spaces amongst the two cultures, both shared and separated, momentary and boundless. Such experiences have evolved into a dynamic practice that disquiets dominant notions of identity and complicates cultural difference. For the past twenty years, he has situated his art practice as a multitude of spaces between, and even above.
Ala’s recent investigations have created liminal experiences to longer notions of scientific duration beyond human timelines, cosmic travel and the phenomenology of light. These projects bring forth sculptural and photographic possibilities of the universe gazing back through endless collapses of time and physical reworking of centuries old processes of image making. Ala’s practice extends how our contemporary moments both live together as minuscule and paramount amidst an infinite score of skies and stars.
He currently teaches at Stanford University in the Department of Art & Art History, Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford, and Global Studies at Stanford. He is the founder and director of Art, Social Space and Public Discourse, a Stanford global initiative on art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of public space. This ongoing critical framework of conversations, newly commissioned art projects, and exploration of various cultural productions and intellectual traditions looks at recent transformations of civic life.
Ala holds an MFA from Stanford University and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
His work has been widely exhibited internationally. His solo shows include Safina, The Third Line (2018); Nowheresville, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2015); Elsewhen, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2012); 1388, The Third Line, Dubai UAE (2009); and Emergence, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California, USA (2006). His work was featured in such group exhibitions as The Moon: A Voyage through Time, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada (2019); Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times, Di Rosa Art, Napa, CA, USA (2018); Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition, Katonah Museum of Art, NY, USA (2018); the 2014 Xinjiang Biennale; Migrating Identities, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2013); The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric, Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah, UAE (2013); The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM – Museum for Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, Germany (2011); One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now, a touring exhibition originating at the Asia Society, NYC (2008); and the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art (2006).
Ala’s works are in public and private collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany; Devi Art Foundation, India; Orange County Museum of Art, CA, USA; de Young Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, USA; Crocker Art Museum, CA, USA; Microsoft Art Collection, Redmond, WA; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA, USA; among others. Ala has been awarded residencies at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France, 18th Street Art Center in Los Angeles, Sazmanab in Tehran, Iran, and the San Francisco Center for the Book.