EJ Hill Is One of the 63 Artists Participating in This Year’s Whitney Biennial. So Why Can’t Anyone Find His Work in the Show?

This year’s Whitney Biennial names 63 participating artists and collectives, But unless visitors also buy a copy of the exhibition catalog, they will only be able to see works by 62 of them.

That’s because artist EJ Hill, known primarily for his arduous durational performance art, declined to show his work at the museum. Instead, he contributed only to the biennial’s official publication, where he is represented by a blank page of pink paper.

Striking in its simplicity, the pale pink page is strangely beautiful, a thin sliver of color visible in the book’s fore-edge when the pages are closed. But it’s undoubtedly an unorthodox response to an invitation to one of the contemporary art world’s most prestigious exhibitions—one that would be a major career milestone for any young artist.

Through his Los Angeles gallery, Commonwealth and Council, Hill declined to comment on the move, leaving the interpretation of the cryptic gesture up to the viewer. But the artist’s previous works may offer some clues.

Altar (for victors past, present, and future) in “Made in LA 2018″ at the Hammer Museum at UCLA. Photo courtesy of the Hammer Museum at UCLA.” width=”1024″ height=”576″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/06/hill_Made-in-LA-Install-055e-1024×576.jpeg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/06/hill_Made-in-LA-Install-055e-300×169.jpeg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/06/hill_Made-in-LA-Install-055e-1536×864.jpeg 1536w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/06/hill_Made-in-LA-Install-055e-50×28.jpeg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/06/hill_Made-in-LA-Install-055e.jpeg 1560w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

E.J. Hill, Altar (for victors past, present, and future) in “Made in LA 2018” at the Hammer Museum at UCLA. Photo courtesy of the Hammer Museum at UCLA.

For the 2018 “Made in LAbiennial at the Hammer Museum, Hill Revisited six of the seven schools he had attended in the city and ran laps around them. He later installed a model track in the galleries and, for the entirety of the show, stood atop a podium-like sculpture in the galleries.

A statement from the museum said the work “reflects both the hardships that certain bodies are forced to endure and the enormous resilience of those bodies.”

The omission of Hill’s own body from the Whitney Biennial, and his refusal this time to endure physical hardship, also speaks volumes.

EJ Hill's contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog.  Photo by Paul Salveson.

EJ Hill’s contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog. Photo by Paul Salveson.

It could be read as a decision rooted in self care, and a natural progression from Hill’s recent solo show “Wherever We Will to Root,” which opened at Los Angeles’s Occidental College in February, and featured a series of six floral paintings.

This departure from physical performance was about “the work of care, a therapeutic mechanism for healing, rehabilitation, and even refusal,” according to the exhibition statement.

EJ Hill's contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog.  Photo by Paul Salveson.

EJ Hill’s contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog. Photo by Paul Salveson.

“No more wringing myself dry. Just flowers, and clouds, and puppies, and ribbons, and pink, and other sissy boy shit,” Hill wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post that was quoted by the Art Newspaper.

The artist’s account now contains just one post, shared on April 7, of a plain pink square. It’s the same shade of ”Millennial Pink,” which became ubiquitous over the past decade, as the catalog contribution, and it, too, offers no caption or explanation.

“We admire EJ’s embrace of opacity and his questioning of what representation means at this historical moment,” David Breslin and Adrianne Edwards, the exhibition’s co-curators, told Artnet News in an email.

EJ Hill's contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog.  Photo by Paul Salveson.

EJ Hill’s contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial is a blank pink page in the exhibition catalog. Photo by Paul Salveson.

Hill’s pink page has a soothing aura about it, seemingly offering readers a moment to rest. Perhaps it also offered Hill a moment to recharge his creative energies for his next artistic endeavor—and it looks like a return to performance is on the performance, with a solo show featuring an installation with a performance stage opening at MASS MoCA in the fall.

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Keptis on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, April 6–September 5, 2022.

EJ Hill: Brake Run Helix” will be on view at MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA WAY
North Adams, Massachusetts, October 29, 2022–January 2024.

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