CHRISTINA QUARLES (B. 1985)
CHRISTINA QUARLES (B. 1985)
CHRISTINA QUARLES (B. 1985)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
CHRISTINA QUARLES (B. 1985)

Even in tha Evenin’

Details
CHRISTINA QUARLES (B. 1985)
Even in tha Evenin’
signed, titled and dated 'Christina Quarles 2019 "EVEN IN THA EVENIN'" (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
52 x 50in. (132 x 127cm.)
Painted in 2019
Provenance
Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
D. Pagel, ‘Christina Quarles’ paintings blur boundaries and find freedom in the flesh’, in Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2019.
Exhibited
Los Angeles, Regen Projects, Christina Quarles: But I Woke Jus’ Tha Same, 2019.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

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Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Bodies and limbs grasp and entwine one another across Christina Quarles’ Even in tha Evenin’, a vivid large-scale canvas from 2019. Quarles draws upon her own experience as a queer, multiracial woman to create polymorphous paintings that explore sensual, shifting states of identity. At least three figures seem to be involved in the present work: one contorts backwards at a right angle as if bounded by the edges of the picture, while a second leans back to meet it in a twisted embrace. A pile-up of hands meet on its arching abdomen, gripping breasts and interlacing fingers. Faces variously described—including a dilute grimace worthy of Francis Bacon, a pink profile in silhouette, and a face whose mouth appears to be an actual lipstick kiss—are framed by the figures’ raised arms. Ranging from slick impasto to sinuous washes of pink and purple and contoured shadings of neon hue, Quarles’ pigment is by turns translucent and opaque, delicate and strident, deployed in a dazzling diversity of techniques. She uses vinyl stencils to mask off some areas—creating a crisp-edged mountainous backdrop—and lets other passages rain drips down the raw canvas. One wedge of black is scored into wavy striations using a comb.

Born in Chicago in 1985, Quarles moved following her parents’ divorce to Los Angeles in 1991: she still lives and works there today. After attending the Los Angeles High School for the Arts, she graduated from Hampshire College in 2007, where she studied philosophy and critical race theory. She found language a limiting way to approach thinking about identity and returned to making art, eventually earning an MA in painting from Yale School of Art in 2016. Her work has received rising acclaim ever since. Quarles was prominently featured in the 2020 Whitechapel Gallery group show Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium, and the following year held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the South London Gallery. Her works are held in major museum collections worldwide, including Tate, London; the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, among others.

Quarles’ emphasis on the fingers, applied here in fleshy tongues of impasto or picked out with carefully-drawn red outlines, underscores her painting’s intimate sense of touch. With its inherently liquid physicality, paint is a fluent vehicle for her expression of forms of bodily and social experience. She has explained that ‘rather than making paintings of what a racially multiple body looks like, I hope to make paintings that explore what living in a racially multiple body feels like. For me, it is the feeling of having my identity in constant flux, feeling my sense of self solidify and get rebuilt depending on context’ (C. Quarles in correspondence with Tate curator Mark Godfrey, 22 October 2018, accessed at https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/quarles-casually-cruel-t15219). This sense of fragmentation, reassembly and changing backgrounds is especially palpable in the present work’s ingenious use of stencils, whereby forms slip in and out of focus—and in and out of one another—to become visible as either positive or negative spaces.

At the same time, painting as a conceptual and historical framework provides a structure of unspoken norms and fixed ideas against which Quarles’ bodies, with their athletic, shapeshifting freedom of motion, can rebel. They are as ungoverned by the usual rules of colour and perspective as they are by received representations of race or gender. Quarles begins her works freehand, improvising from these initial brushstrokes to build the composition into being. The present work’s areas of high finish—such as the gleaming bar of steely blue at the upper edge—contrast with its zones of raw canvas and dripping paint, conjuring a dynamic sense of the picture coming into being. These textures might also be seen to echo the alternately muscular and vaporous bodies in Francis Bacon’s paintings, which were similarly born of brushwork both intuitive and controlled. The work’s title, Even in tha Evenin’, is typical of Quarles’ punning wordplay: she reminds us that art is its own form of language, and that signifiers, bodies and experiences alike can be lithe and labile, free to define and redefine themselves as they wish.

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