Olivia Hill: Strike-Slip

709 N. Hill St. inside Asian Center upstairs suite #105 Los Angeles, CA 90012 USA
Jul 23, 6 PM - 9 PM — ends Sep 17, 2022
For her first solo exhibition at Bel Ami, Olivia Hill’s paintings of the local landscape are both observant and odd; her brightly-lit desert scenes look accurate yet otherworldly. Strike-Slip describes the precarious tilt of the San Andreas faultline. Here it also hints at the constant filming and framing of Los Angeles, the building and dismantling (to strike a set), and the slippage that occurs in acts of representation, or even in memory: the harder one tries to recall something, the more slippage occurs.

Referencing her own photos and screenshots of aerial images from Google Earth, Hill evinces the outdoor environment through a combination of strategies. Tightly rendered formations in pictorial space are layered in among expressive painterly marks that activate the material surface of the canvas. Like a film set, from a distance the scene coheres, but closer viewing reveals ruptures in the illusion: swaths of sandy medium, spray paint and splatter, fomenting swirls of pigment and mineral spirits, stamped on leaf patterns, and impasto built up to form a consistently disturbed world.

In Hill’s landscapes the harmonies, the dissonance, and exploitative quality of our exchange with the earth emerges. Most of Hill’s paintings can be traced to actual locations–a longitude and latitude is often cited in the title of the work–although their very indexicality draws attention to subjective perceptions of nature in the social imaginary. Working from images with limited data, in recreating a scene Hill freely intervenes with her own inventive associations. She chooses sites with a track record of human engineering: the snowmaking pond on Mammoth Mountain, the man-made Bronson Caves, an astronaut’s footprint on the moon. Just as the so-called wilderness is carved and imprinted with ideologies and myth, Olivia Hill’s paintings are confabulations. It is their closeness to the truth that is unexpectedly surreal.

If there are notes of nostalgia or romance in Hill’s paintings, they are treated as just some of the promises staked in the canyons over time. Places once advertised as paradise are now inhospitable. The dystopic slant has been capitalized upon too; myriad noir and sci-fi films and TV shows have been shot here. Most of Southern California has been reimagined and usurped. This landscape has crumbled and been reconfigured so many times that a cool breeze from the ocean can come as a surprise. In LA, corroded by a history of poor city planning, it’s a relief to encounter a piece of public infrastructure that functions for people in the community. A concrete picnic table scribbled with spray paint is a relic, and a stage, and a place to sit and eat a sandwich while one contemplates the relative scale of things in the California desert and in the universe.

Olivia Hill (b. 1985, Hinsdale, Illinois) lives and works between Los Angeles and Yucca Valley. Hill received an MFA from University of California, Riverside (2020) and a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute (2006). Recent exhibitions include A Fool’s Game Played By Cowards at As It Stands, Los Angeles, CA (curated by Kinder, NY with Aria Dean) (2022); A Somewhat Thin Line at In Lieu Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2022); Psycho Geology at Bendix Building, Los Angeles, CA (curated by Anna Elise Johnson) (2022); and No Matter What, MFA thesis exhibition at JOAN, Los Angeles, CA (2021).