September 11, 2018 - University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) - Christina Quarles: MATRIX 271
September 11, 2018

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)

Christina Quarles, Small Offerings, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches. BAMPFA, purchase made possible through a gift of an anonymous donor. Photo: Jonathan Bloom.

Christina Quarles
September 19–November 18, 2018

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
2155 Center Street
Berkeley, CA 94720
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

In her first solo museum exhibition, Los Angeles-based artist Christina Quarles continues her exploration of fluid subjectivities in a series of recent paintings that allude to themes of race, gender, and sexuality through enigmatic, semi-figurative compositions.

Informed by the artist’s self-identification as “a queer, cis woman who is black but is often mistaken as white,” the works in Christina Quarles / MATRIX 271 probe the ambiguity of identity through depictions of intertwined bodies set against a mysterious backdrop of shifting forms and floating horizontal planes. By situating her subtly erotic compositions in a dreamlike environment that seems to shift between interior and exterior space, Quarles explores the relationship between the subjective experience of queer female identity and the social constructs that surround it.

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 seem to simultaneously inhabit interior and exterior space, making it difficult to demarcate their positions in the world of multiple perspectives Quarles has created.

As the latest artist to exhibit in BAMPFA’s MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art, Quarles advances the program’s 40-year history of introducing Bay Area audiences to exceptional contemporary art, often during transitional moments in the artists’ careers. Quarles joins a distinguished roster of artists whose work has been showcased at BAMPFA through MATRIX, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, James Lee Byars, Sophie Calle, Jay DeFeo, Willem de Kooning, Juan Downey, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, Cecilia Vicuña, Andy Warhol—and earlier this year, Jay Heikes, Ruby Neri, and Alicia McCarthy.

“Christina Quarles is a singular talent in today’s contemporary art scene, whose intoxicating paintings tussle with culturally prescribed identities and probe those margins where meaning remains unfixed, illegible, and something composed in order to question,” said the exhibition’s curator Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator at BAMPFA. “We’re thrilled to provide Christina with her first solo museum exhibition at a moment when a growing national audience has come to appreciate her remarkable and distinctive vision.” Quarles’s BAMPFA exhibition signals the artist’s accelerating emergence as a new important voice in contemporary art, following the inclusion of her work in the acclaimed group exhibition Made in L.A. 2018 at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum earlier this year.

In conjunction with the opening of Christina Quarles / MATRIX 271, Quarles is joined in conversation by DiQuinzio for an artist’s talk on Thursday, September 20 at 6pm. Visitors are also invited to join Olivia Young, PhD candidate in UC Berkeley’s Department of African Diaspora Studies, for a gallery talk about Quarles’s paintings on Wednesday, October 10 at 5:30pm.

About the artist
Born in 1985 in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Christina Quarles received her BA from Hampshire College in 2007 and her MFA from Yale University in 2016. Quarles has been featured recently in several notable museum exhibitions, including Made in L.A. 2018 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon at the New Museum, New York; and Fictions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. She has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Pilar Corrias Gallery, London; David Castillo Gallery, Miami; and Skibum MacArthur, Los Angeles. Additionally, she has shown work in group exhibitions at Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto; Gagosian Gallery, Miami; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles; and LAXART, Los Angeles, among others. The artist was a participant at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in 2016 and was a 2017 resident at the Fountainhead Residency in Miami. She has been the recipient of several awards and grants including the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant and the Robert Schoelkopf Fellowship at Yale University. Christina Quarles / MATRIX 271 is her first solo museum exhibition. Quarles lives and works in Los Angeles; she is represented by Regen Projects, Los Angeles; and Pilar Corrias, London.

Christina Quarles / MATRIX 271
is organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator, with Matthew Coleman, curatorial assistant. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAMPFA Trustees.

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
Share - Christina Quarles
  • Share