Christina Quarles

February 12 – June 5, 2022

Los Angeles–based artist Christina Quarles paints bodies that are subjected not only to the weight and gravity of the physical world but also to the pleasures and pressures of the social realm. Her evocative scenes feature ambiguous figures whose limbs, torsos, and faces merge with familiar domestic objects made strange through unexpected color choices and experimental painterly gestures. The largest presentation of her work to date, Christina Quarles surveys the artist’s paintings of the last three years and features the US debut of a large-scale installation that playfully references trompe l’oeil—an optical technique for producing the semblance of depth that the artist relates to the illusory boundaries that demarcate the self. The exhibition also includes a selection of Quarles’s drawings, which often include text that references vernacular language and popular culture. Ultimately, Quarles’s work explores the universal experience of existing within a body, as well as the ways race, gender, and sexuality intersect to form complex identities.

Using Adobe Illustrator to generate aspects of her compositions, Quarles introduces digitally rendered patterns and markings that destabilize the sense of space in her paintings. The distorted and often disintegrated figures that inhabit these hybrid environments reflect the fragmented experience we have of our own bodies and underscore the gaps that exist between our self-understanding and others’ perceptions. Hovering between representation and abstraction, Quarles’s paintings portray subjects who don’t easily fit within the confines of the canvas or discernable categories, and who commingle with each other in enigmatic ways.

Tracing the arc of her young yet remarkable practice toward increasingly complicated groupings of figures, Christina Quarles demonstrates the artist’s sensitivity to the ways in which, through intimacy and in relationship, we come to know each other as messy and multifaceted selves.

Christina Quarles American, b. 1985, Chicago) earned her MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University in 2016. Quarles has presented her artwork nationally and internationally, including in solo and group exhibitions at the Hepworth Wakefield Museum in Wakefield, England; the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Whitechapel Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and the New Museum in New York City. Quarles has received an Emerging Artist Grant from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, New York City, and the Perez Prize from the Perez Art Museum, Miami.

Christina Quarles is organized by the MCA Chicago and curated by Grace Deveney, former Assistant Curator. The presentation at the Frye Art Museum is organized by Amanda Donnan, Chief Curator. Generous support is provided by the Frye Foundation and Frye Members. Media sponsorship is provided by Crosscut.

Christina Quarles. Peer Amid (Peered Amidst), 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 55 x 86 x 2 in. The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. Laid Down Beside Yew, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 84 x 96 x 2 in. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2019.16. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. Change Comin' Round Tha Bend (Right Round, Right Round), 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 68 x 54 x 1 1/4 in. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Richard D. Marshall Acquisitions Endowment, 2019.21. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. I Don’ Wanna, Be Funny Anymore, 2019. Ink on paper. 15 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 1 1/2 in. Skarstedt, New York. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. Peer Amid (Peered Amidst), 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 55 x 86 x 2 in. The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. Laid Down Beside Yew, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 84 x 96 x 2 in. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2019.16. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. Change Comin' Round Tha Bend (Right Round, Right Round), 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 68 x 54 x 1 1/4 in. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Richard D. Marshall Acquisitions Endowment, 2019.21. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles. I Don’ Wanna, Be Funny Anymore, 2019. Ink on paper. 15 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 1 1/2 in. Skarstedt, New York. © Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.