Christina Quarles - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 13, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “I found that language was a limiting way to approach multiple ways of being and thinking about identity. It was linear and an incredibly intense burden informing Westernized ways of seeing. This made me realize that painting was definitely what I wanted to do to explore these ideas.”
    —Christina Quarles

    Created in 2020 in direct response to the sudden limitations on movement and interpersonal contact brought about by the global pandemic, Christina Quarles’ Lil' Dapple Do Ya is a visceral and affecting psychological portrait of our desire for human intimacy, and the complex experience of being in our bodies. A tangle of limbs, hands, buttocks, and breasts, two bodies violently collide and melt into one another, the whole composition charged with a searing sensuality and eroticism further amplified by the shocks of hot pink and acid yellows that offset fleshier tones. Although her fluid treatment of paint, and elongated, soft forms visually evoke the Surrealist visions of Salvador Dalí, Quarles’ compositions are rooted in the complexities of being in her own body, rather than occupying the realm of dreams and fantasy.


    Salvador Dalí, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936, The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: The Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950, 1950-134-41, Artwork: © Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/DACS, London 2023


    First presented in her 2020 solo show I Won’t Fear Tumbling or Falling / If We’ll be Joined in Another World alongside 8 other works created in the same intense and uncertain period, Lil' Dapple Do Ya demonstrates the remarkable range of Quarles’ mark-making. Slipping seamlessly between painterly styles and techniques, we see smoother and more sculptural contour lines running up against more precise  patterned planes, dreamy washes of colour suddenly interrupted by more heavily impastoed areas, the artist layering paint over itself ‘to evoke woozy double vision, offset by smears of bubble-gum-pink paint, bared buttocks, and tentacular black limbs.’i


    Under Quarles’ virtuoso treatment, paint itself becomes a conceptual medium for carrying the themes of identity, intimacy, and the body that sit at the heart of her practice, the fluidity of acrylic and the ease with which she manipulates it into elastic new forms deeply expressive of the complex experience of being in our bodies. Quarles’ forms are never grasped whole, or distinctly individuated in relationship to one another, but are instead caught in energetic, active states of merging, separating, ‘enmeshed and vulnerable in a process of becoming and erasure.ii



     Detail of the present work


    As the primary means through which we navigate our relationships to others, the world around us, and the sense that fundamentally grounds the sense of our own embodiment, touch is afforded a special place in Quarles’ practice. Tellingly, although she often distorts or obscures the faces of her fluid, humanoid forms, hands and feet are often more fully realised. The parts of our body that we are most familiar with by sight, our hands and feet are also the primary means through which we register touch and physical sensation. Caught in snatches, Quarles’ privileging of these isolated bodily parts and her emphasis on painterly texture also underscores the subtle but significant point that our experience of our own bodies is always fragmented and partial, even as we comprehend other bodies as whole and fully contained within themselves.


    The special place afforded to the relationship between physical sensation and embodiment places Quarles in a fascinating dialogue with the ‘body awareness’ paintings that formed the focus of Austrian artist Maria Lassnig’s work across painting and film. Like Lassnig, Quarles seems fascinated by the shifting, ever-changing landscape of the self, and of painting’s unique ability to capture those sensations in colour and line. As a queer, bi-racial woman who is often mis-seen as white, Quarles has a deep personal understanding of the ways in which identity is never one single, fixed entity, but can be at once multiply situated and subject to change. Although Quarles first tried to pursue these lines of enquiry through philosophy and looking specifically at questions of the multi-positionality of racial identity, she ultimately found language too limiting, turning to painting as a way of more accurately positioning the self in multiple places at once.  


    Always working to the scale of her own body, regardless of the size of the canvas, the claustrophobic spatial arrangement of the present work, activated in her careful use of patterned planes and more complex layering in her compositions, speaks powerfully not only to the trapped conditions of pandemic life but, more broadly, to the social and cultural limitations imposed from outside of ourselves – of what it means to be trapped in a racialised and gendered body. In her technical process, Quarles finds innovative new ways of exploring these tensions as she moves between the more intuitive, gestural mark-making at play in the early stages of a composition’s execution, and the more controlled interventions that she is able to perform digitally through image-editing software. Contrasting with the more liquid forms of her soft figures, these tools allow Quarles to introduce more precise and spatially complex elements that her figures have to negotiate. Polymorphous and existing simultaneously in physical and digital space, Christina Quarles' rapidly shifting compositions show us what it is to be in our bodies in the 21st century.



    Christina Quarles discusses her practice ahead of her exhibition with the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Chicago, 2021


    Collector’s Digest

    • Currently the subject of a solo show of new works with Hauser & Wirth in Menorca, Los Angeles based artist Christina Quarles has been the focus of numerous important group shows, including her presentation for Cecilia Alemani’s The Milk of Dreams at the Central Pavilion of the 2022 La Biennale di Venezia. Her work was also represented in the 2020 Radical Figures held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

    • Significantly, the artist was also honoured with a major critically acclaimed solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2021.

    • Her paintings are also housed in esteemed public collections, including the Musée nationale d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Tate, London.



    i Daniel Culpan, ‘Chistina Quarles, Pilar Corrias’, Artforum, Vol. 59, no. 4. January / February, 2021, online.

    ii Daniel Culpan, ‘Chistina Quarles, Pilar Corrias’, Artforum, Vol. 59, no. 4. January / February, 2021, online.

    • Provenance

      Pilar Corrias, London
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Pilar Corrias, Christina Quarles: I Won’t Fear Tumbling or Falling/If We’ll be Joined in Another World, 8 October – 4 November 2020

    • 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.  

      View More Works


Lil' Dapple Do Ya

signed, titled and dated ‘Christina Quarles 2020 “LIL’ DAPPLE DO YA”’ on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
141.9 x 152.4 cm (55 7/8 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

£450,000 - 550,000 

Sold for £508,000

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Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
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+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 October 2023