EJ Hill: Wherever we will to root. 👀

4757 York Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90042
Feb 17, 12 PM - 5 PM — ends Apr 22, 2022
OXY ARTS, Occidental College's public art space rooted in social justice and community organizing, is pleased to announce Wherever we will to root., a solo exhibition by artist EJ Hill. A California native whose practice includes writing, painting, sculpture, performance, and installation and explores the oppression of and social inequities faced by black, brown, and queer bodies, Hill departs from his physical practice to embrace the painterly tradition of floral representation with a suite of thirteen large-scale paintings of pink florals. The exhibition is the culmination of Hill’s term as the 2021 Wanlass Artist in Residence at OXY ARTS, and is on view February 17-April 22, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Following a residency at The Studio Museum in Harlem, in which the artist lay still in a durational performance, Hill came to prominence during his presentation of Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria at the Hammer Museum's “Made in L.A.” 2018 biennial. For the duration of the exhibition (six days a week, for three months), Hill stood unmoving, without breaks for food, water, or bodily functions in front of a neon sign that posed the question: Where on earth, in which soils, and under what conditions will we bloom brilliantly and violently?

Having exhausted his body and proved his resilience, Hill used his term as the Wanlass Artist in Residence––the only college residency in the country where the artist is invited to develop a completely original curriculum based on their practice and interests––as a period of necessary creative rest and unlearning. Hill’s course offered as part of the residency, Outside the Bounds: Neutral and Authoritative Knowledge, collaboratively explored how to unlearn what we know. His unique method of approaching the student-teacher dynamic is inspired by his experiences both in and out of the classroom. “It comes from mostly just my experience being a student,” says the artist. “And in a lot of those instances feeling really powerless and pushed aside, which isn’t unlike how I sometimes feel as a queer person, a Black person in America.” The unlearning that is happening in the classroom has created a sense of freedom for Hill to create work that is unexpected from him, and focus on care as a radical act in itself.

In this unlearning, Hill formulated the answer to his question: Where on earth, in which soils, and under what conditions will we bloom brilliantly and violently? Wherever we will to root. features a series of floral paintings, acting as the antithesis of his trauma-focused performances. Here, the paintings seem to say––in the restful pink hues of roses and daffodils and daisies––is the place where blooming happens, where the body is not tested but nursed back to homeostasis. “I was sad and tired, so I decided to buy myself flowers,” notes Hill. Stepping away from the work he came to be known for, Wherever we will to root. brings forward a cathartic response to the artist’s portfolio of work. The gallery will become a place of activation and collaboration, drenched in pink florals: Daisy Days, a music collaboration between EJ Hill and Jeffrey Michael Austin, will play a concert inside the galleries on the evening of April 22nd.