Eli Hill: Lonely Deep Affection

Nov 16, 2023 - Jan 6, 2024

30 Orchard St, Gallery 2



Harkawik is pleased to announce Lonely Deep Affection, our second solo exhibition with New York artist Eli Hill and the first since he began exploring large formats that push the limits of his compositional strategies. Hill envisions an expansive, timely, and inward world via blocky comportments of volumetric chunks whose representational qualities flicker and dissolve at the bounds of patterned surfaces. His consistent use of aerial perspectives coupled with highly subjective material suggests formally, if not topically, a reluctant acceptance of witnessing and being seen. 

In one especially subtle work, Medicine Balls, the concerns of a social sphere that wants to categorize and divide are rendered in the most neutral, tender capacity, as two balls rest on a person's lap. It is the kind of moment that happens without intent but might be revisited later on, bearing the weight of its reluctant poignancy. In other works, Hill portrays the internal reality of exercise, sexuality, sensory sensitivity, and neurodivergence; one work asks whether the armor of a sculpted abdomen is a protective shield or an exhausting burden in our contemporary moment, while in another, a passed-out Earth can’t answer one more question. 

Lonely Deep Affection offers copious images of the grand and cinematic aloneness of existentialism and an urban, American brand of hyper-individuated subjective personal experience. In one of the exhibition's most ambitious works, Lovers in the Park, a figure resembling Hill stares forward, surrounded by displays of affection, indifferent and superpopulated pigeons, reminding us that New York (with its unyielding throngs of strangers muttering to themselves) might be one of the world's most difficult places to find peace, balance, and something like communion with one's surroundings. In a distinctly Renaissance gesture, a single rose drifts to the earth, vignetted perfectly by foliage. Yet the paintings of the German Expressionists might teach us more about how to understand Hill's palette: a tool for foregrounding internal reality. 

Hill is a long-distance runner and a steward for Forest Park in Queens, New York. His meditations on public space recall reflections made by Samuel Delany and Jane Jacobs in "The Life and Death of Great American Cities.” When the neighborhood is transformed into a postmodern superslum, little opportunity for “contact” is left. Hill likens long-distance running to the year’s best months, the seasons that welcome an innocent crush. In Running Thoughts, the optimism of new love transcends biology, and braids are just as long as they ought to be. Everything is perfect in purple, in profiles reminiscent of portraits by Erma Bossi. The pigeon is a symbol of peace again. 

In Yellow Trail, Hill presents the material reality of fringe sexuality that lacks a venue for consummation. Whether one is a participant, an onlooker, or the one tasked with its erasure creates the defining context for its visceral scene. Is it natural for sexual encounters to occur in a home, or as Delany supposes, does this assumption of nature define love as class and identity bound? Hill's work poses a series of persistent questions without ever naming them: Who has privacy in the city? In the forest? Who created these conditions, and who upholds them? When speaking about And How Does it Feel, Hill refers to something that might be the opposite of comedic timing, suggesting that the moment when these questions might be answered lies well after the world is too exhausted to answer.