EJ Hill at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles


WHAT DID YOU DO THIS SUMMER? E.J. Hill spent his entire summer standing on a platform at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The museum’s Made in L.A. biennial opened on June 3 and every since, six days a week for three months, Hill has been standing on a new work called “Altar (for victors past, present, and future).” The sculpture is a winner’s platform, the three-tiered kind used in medal ceremonies for sports competitions. Throughout the biennial, during the hours the Hammer is open to the public, the artist is standing atop the platform to make a profound statement about endurance.

Titled “Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria” (which means “excellence, resilience, victory” in Latin), Hill’s biennial presentation combines performance, sculpture, neon, photography, and installation. He ran laps around six of the schools he attended in Los Angeles—from Marie Fegan Preschool to UCLA—to revisit his past and assert his presence at institutions that were central to his development. He is a product of the schools, yet, perennially cast as the other, he never felt fully embraced by them. Hill collaborated with photographer Texas Isaiah, who documented the actions.

“These laps that I am running around these schools I am playfully calling victory laps. I am trying to sweat out the lessons that I no longer need, making myself a victor of these spaces that are built all around us but not necessarily for us,” Hill said in the video below.

“I’ve been working with Texas Isaiah for this project, a really wonderful artist, photographer, maker. I really wanted to bring someone along for this ride, on these runs, this whole process, who is sensitive to how different bodies are formed and how different bodies move through space and take up space or are barred from certain spaces and I knew that he was someone who was going to bring an air of intention to these neighborhoods that we’ve been asserting our presence in.”

“These laps that I am running around these schools I am playfully calling victory laps. I am trying to sweat out the lessons that I no longer need, making myself a victor of these spaces that are built all around us but not necessarily for us.” — E.J. Hill

EJ Hill explains his Made in L.A. project—running victory laps around Los Angeles-area school he attended—and his collaboration with photographer Texas Isaiah who documented the exercise. | Video by Hammer Museum


HILL’S MADE IN L.A. project is incredibly personal. At the same time, his desire to triumph over the alienation he felt is entirely relatable. Running circles around his schools was a means to declare victory over spaces where he felt marginalized and unrepresented. He sought assertion and empowerment, goals with universal resonance.

The work comes together in a gallery installation at the museum. The space resembles a turf field surrounded by a running track. Photographs capturing Hill’s laps are on display. A neon work that reads, “Where on earth, In which Souls And under what conditions Will We bloom brilliantly And violently?” is displayed on the wall behind the platform where the artist stands.

Day in and day out, visitors to the museum have observed Hill on the “Altar” and last week they expressed an appreciation for his commitment. More than 70,000 visitors voted for their favorite artist and Hill emerged the victor, winning the biennial’s Public Recognition Award, which includes a $25,000 prize. CT


Co-curated by Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale, the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. biennial runs through this weekend, concluding on Sept. 2, 2018.

READ MORE about Hill’s Made in L.A. project here and visit his website for additional information on his multidiscplinary practice


TOP IMAGE: EJ HILL, “Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria,” 2018 (installation and durational performance), Installation view, Made in L.A. 2018, June 3-Sept. 2, 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. | Photo by Brian Forrest, Hammer Museum


A diverse slate of artists working in a range of mediums is featured in “Made in L.A. 2018.” The catalog for the Hammer Museum’s latest biennial, explores the work of each artist (EJ Hill among them) and includes a roundtable conversation led by curators Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale about the evolving landscape of cultural institutions and artistic communities in Los Angeles.


Running in Circles: Curators Erin Christovale and Amanda Hunt were in conversation with photographer Texas Isaiah about E.J. Hill’s durational performance for Made in L.A., on June 21 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. | Video by Hammer Museum


EJ HILL, “A Monumental Offering of Potential Energy,” 2016 (installation and durational performance), Installation view at Studio Museum in Harlem on Aug. 18, 2016. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine


EJ Hill lives and works in Los Angeles. At the Studio Museum in Harlem, Hill presented another durational performance and the end of his residency at the museum. From July-October 2016, for the exhibition “Tenses: Artists in Residence 2015-16,” he positioned himself at the foot of a purple neon rollercoaster installation. Hill remained there, lying on a rectangle platform, during the museum’s operating hours. The performance, “A Monumental Offering of Potential Energy,” references the highs and lows of life and the artist’s body served “as a meditation on the space of queer black bodies.”


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