EJ Hill, Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria, 2018. Installation view, Made in L.A. 2018, June 3-September 2, 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

EJ Hill

At the core of EJ Hill’s practice is a form of durational performance that reflects both the hardships that certain bodies are forced to endure and the enormous resilience of those bodies. Hill insists that we look at how our society’s deeply held prejudices and inequalities continue to render black, brown, and queer bodies the targets of violence, and his work can be as painful to contend with as it is essential to witness. He has explored being policed, assaulted, unwelcomed, misunderstood, and confused. Yet he believes in the power of representation and the possibility of healing. Through an expansive practice that has grown to include writing, painting, sculpture, and installation, Hill is committed to providing visibility for those who have been ignored or disregarded and to telling stories that have gone untold.

For Made in L.A. 2018, Hill explores performance as a form of meditation, a life-affirming action, and a revisiting of the past. For Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria, he visited six of the seven schools he has attended in Los Angeles—from Marie Fegan Preschool to El Camino College—and ran around each of them, charting a course along the streets that circumscribe each campus. Hill describes these runs as “victory laps,” and each is an act of reinserting his body into places where he never felt fully accepted yet were foundational to his development. Returning to these sites is part of a process of unlearning the lessons that have conditioned Hill’s thoughts and behaviors.

Resembling a school field with running track, the installation includes photographs made with collaborator Texas Isaiah documenting the runs and several sculptures related to competition and recognition. For the duration of the exhibition, for every hour the museum is open to the public (six days a week for three months), Hill is standing on his sculpture titled Altar (for victors past, present, and future), which takes the form of a podium where athletes receive their medals. The endurance and commitment required for the runs and Hill’s ongoing performance are ultimately acts of incredible resilience, affirming our aspirations of becoming our most genuine and exquisite selves. 

EJ Hill (b. 1985, Los Angeles, California) works in the Manchester Square neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Hill received his BFA from Columbia College Chicago, in 2011, and MFA from University of California, Los Angeles, in 2013. He has exhibited or performed at Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, France (2017); Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Future Generation Art Prize at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2017); Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles (2017); and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016), among others. He was an artist in residence at Praxis Studio, California State University, Dominquez Hills (2017), Studio Museum in Harlem (2015), and Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions (2010). He was nominated for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation Future Generation Art Prize (2017) and is the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (2018), Art Matters Foundation Award (2017), William H. Johnson Prize (2016), and American Austrian Foundation Prize for Fine Arts, Salzburg (2012).