Christina Quarles - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    David Castillo Gallery, Miami
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Miami, David Castillo Gallery, Baby, I Want Yew To Know All Tha Folks I Am, December 4, 2017 – January 31, 2018

  • Literature

    Sarah Burke, “Two Artists on Creating Outside of the Art World’s White, Patriarchal Rules”, Broadly, February 21, 2018, online (illustrated)
    Wendy Vogel, “Christina Quarles”, Art in America, March 1, 2018, online (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…these are portraits of being an individual, rather than portraits of an individual.” – Christina Quarles

    Bodies are in states of flux in Christina Quarles’ captivating paintings, twisting and turning across the canvas in a kaleidoscopic array of color. Epitomizing Quarles’ painterly upending of fixed notions of race, gender and space, Pull on Thru Tha Nite is a vivid example of the breakthrough body of work that catapulted the Los Angeles-based artist to widespread acclaim. Within the course of just 19 months following her first ever solo gallery exhibition in 2017, Quarles' work has been included in Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon at the New Museum, New York, Fictions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and in the biennial Made in L.A. 2018 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, where she was lauded “as perhaps the biennial’s most exciting discovery” (Christopher Knight, “Made in L.A. 2018”, Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2018, online). Quarles is widely celebrated as one of the most unique voices of her generation, a reputation solidified by her first museum solo exhibition currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum.

    Engaging with and subverting the trope of the female nude in art history, Quarles constructs figures whose bodies are as malleable as notions of gender, race, and sexuality. While working within a lineage of figurative painters as diverse as Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, Leon Golub, David Hockney and Marlene Dumas, Quarles deliberately channels her lived experiences as a “queer, cis woman who is black but is often mistaken as white” into pictorial worlds of painterly excess and ambiguity (Christina Quarles, quoted in Christina Quarles, Matrix 271, exh. brochure, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, 2018, online). Many of Quarles' paintings depict predominantly female figures in embrace, and in the present work too, she has depicted three ambiguously intertwined bodies, with the seated woman at the lower left supporting the weight of two elongated figures bent at the waist.

    Quarles deliberately allows the bodies to progressively move towards the brink of dissolution, only vaguely rendering the right figure with the trace of a paint brush, yet characteristically articulates the hands with remarkable finesse, while the face lingers only as a ghostly trace. It is this formal distinction that conveys Quarles’ conception of these works as portraits of living within a body: whereas we only occasionally catch glimpses of our faces, hands are the most fully realized extensions of ourselves that we see interact with the world around us. It is telling that these figures are not based on specific subjects, but spring from the artist’s own experiences and inimitable memory of the human body, the result of many years attending life drawing classes, something the artist continues to do to this day. Moving beyond conventional flesh tones, Quarles constructs otherworldly vignettes that teeter between figuration and abstraction.

    Figures are caught in states of painterly metamorphosis as they inhabit worlds defined by multiple positions and shifting perspectives, in many ways reflective of Quarles’ subjective experience of displacement. Exemplary of the artist’s strategy of employing planar shapes as compositional devices to intersect the canvas, the present work features a dotted picture plane that floats across the white canvas. While the resulting negative space suggests a hilly landscape with a starry sky in the distance, it also draws attention to the way in which the figures are confined by the edges of the canvas and the compositional elements used to frame them – alluding to the Foucauldian notion of the culturally determined body, whereby sexuality is viewed as an effect of specific power relations within a given environment.

    Quarles sees “these figures existing solely within the materiality and limitations of the painting itself” (Christina Quarles, quoted in Tyler Green, “Christina Quarles and Peter Hujar”, The Modern Arts Podcast, no. 352, August 2, 2018, online). Indeed, the fluidity with which these bodies traverse the picture plane is in many ways paralleled by the apparent ease with which Quarles jumps from one painterly technique to the other: she variously thins paint into translucent washes, lays it down with thick impasto, or draws with it to precisely render the figures’ hands and feet. Trompe l’oeil effects mingle with areas of raw canvas, while gestural marks border against crisply defined lines and edges.

    While Quarles’ body of work extends the figurative investigations of such painters as Sue Williams, Nicole Eisenman, and Cecily Brown, her painterly practice appears to more specifically conjure the ghosts of such abstract painters as Helen Frankenthaler and Willem de Kooning. Engaging with the rich history of painting, Quarles adeptly constructs a hybrid universe where the human body is untethered from fixed notions of identity and representation. It is this fresh take on art history that prompted art critic Peter Schjeldahl to highlight Quarles’ contribution to the New Museum’s Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon exhibition. "The happiest surprise in Trigger is a trend in painting that takes inspiration from ideas of indeterminate sexuality for revived formal invention,” he wrote, adding that Quarles can effectively be seen to "return to an old well that suddenly yields fresh water. Styles fade into history when they use up their originating impulses. New motives may snap them back to vitality…” (Peter Schjeldahl, “The Art World as Safe Space”, The New Yorker, October 9, 2017, online). Multiplicity, ambiguity and fantasy reign in Pull on Thru Tha Nite — encouraging the viewer to question the subjectivity and ambiguities of their own existence.

  • Artist Biography

    Christina Quarles

    As a queer woman born to a black father and a white mother, Christina Quarles has developed a worldview defined by multiplicity. Often misrepresented as a white woman in life, Quarles creates work that confronts ideas of race, gender, and queerness. The highly expressive human forms of Quarles’s paintings hover between figuration and abstraction, paradoxically occupying both spaces at once. By incorporating the contradictions of identity into her painting, Quarles has developed an art form defined by energized formal inventiveness and semi-pictorial abstraction that has been likened to the early work of Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning, breathing new life into the historical legacies of their work.  

    Quarles was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1985 and was raised in Los Angeles, California. She completed her BA at Hampshire College in 2007 and earned her MFA at Yale University in 2016. Today, Quarles lives and works in Los Angeles with her wife.  

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Pull on Thru Tha Nite

signed, titled and dated "Christina Quarles 2017 "PULL ON THRU THA NITE"" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
60 x 56 in. (152.4 x 142.2 cm.)
Painted in 2017.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $225,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2018