Christina Quarles (born 1985) tussles with culturally prescribed identities and probes those margins where meaning remains unfixed, illegible, and something that one questions. In her paintings, figures inhabit a world defined by their multiple positions and perspectives. “As a queer, cis woman who is black but is often mistaken as white,” she has said, “I engage with the world from a position that is multiply situated.” Largely informed by her own subjective experience in the world, her work exhibits a prevailing sense of ambiguity, particularly in relation to race, gender, and human relationships.
This exhibition includes a selection of paintings made over the past couple of years. The works present bodies in a state of flux or transformation—nothing appears clear, and everything is fluid. In the painting Small Offerings (2017), a woman with long brown hair rests her elbows on a table with her hands clasped beneath her chin, as a sun radiates in the distance. Beneath the table another figure, vaguely defined, reaches out in an act of flirtation, laying a bouquet of flowers at her beloved’s feet. The hands and feet of the subjects in Quarles’s paintings tend to be some of the most prominent and highly defined features—because these are the parts of our body we know the most objectively from our own lived experience in the world, the artist explains. The figures in Small Offerings seem to simultaneously inhabit interior and exterior space, making it difficult to demarcate their positions in the world of multiple perspectives Quarles has created.