EJ Hill: The Lily League
The Lily League is part of a series of exhibitions referred to by EJ Hill as “lessons.” The Lily League borrows its name from the Black Star calla lily. Initiated during Hill's Radcliffe fellowship year, each of these lessons include a declarative chalkboard. Previous iterations read “We are not our pain,” and “Twice as good is too much.” Founded on principles of excellence by way of radical inclusion and fueled by the resilience of those most vulnerable to institutional violence, Hill recasts the visual language bound up with the American education system to reckon with institutions that are not designed for all. The final iteration invites radical empathy with a chalkboard that reads “Tenderness is our superpower.”
Hill initiated this new direction in his work with Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria for the Hammer Museum’s biennial Made in L.A. 2018. Hill ran victory laps around each of the educational institutions he had attended—from preschool to an MFA program at UCLA—then stood on a medalists’ podium in the gallery throughout the run of the show. This work of endurance deeply informed Hill’s 2018–2019 fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute, an interdisciplinary institute for advanced study situated within an Ivy League university. His work grows from a sincere effort to push against social institutions and constructs that, in Hill’s words, “inhibit us from becoming our most dynamic and freest selves.”
Hill’s work has been presented in domestic and international exhibitions, including Rendez-vous | Biennale de Lyon 2017, at Institut d’Art Contemporain, in Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, France; Artists of Color, at the Underground Museum, in Los Angeles; Future Generation Art Prize, at the 57th Venice Biennale; The Necessary Reconditioning of the Highly Deserving, at Commonwealth & Council, in Los Angeles; and Tenses: Artists in Residence 2015–16, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In addition to his Radcliffe fellowship, Hill is the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award; a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant; the Public Recognition Award for the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2018; the Artadia Award Los Angeles; an Art Matters fellowship grant; and the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists. Hill received an MFA from UCLA and a BFA from Columbia College Chicago.
Exhibition organized by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager