Home Artists Christina Quarles


Christina Quarles

Chicago, IL, United States

1 Works exhibited on Kooness

Current location

Los Angeles, CA

Represented by

Works by Christina Quarles

Don't Worry Baby


20.32 x 50.8cm

3560,07 €

Christina Quarles (b. 1985) is a Los Angeles-based artist, whose practice works to dismantle and question assumptions and ingrained beliefs surrounding identity and the human figure. Born in Chicago and raised by her mother in Los Angeles, Quarles took art classes from an early age. She developed a solid foundation for a lifelong drawing practice through after- school programs and figure drawing classes at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

In 2007, Quarles graduated from Hampshire College with dual BA degrees in Philosophy and Studio Art, then trained and worked in the field of graphic design. As her immersion in drawing progressed, she became well versed in and heavily influenced by the imagery and painterly processes of art historical masters Egon Schiele, Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, and Philip Guston. Seeking a vehicle for expressing feelings and experiences language alone cannot capture, Quarles went on to attend Yale University, where she received her MFA in 2016. She studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture that same year.

Even in her earliest works, Quarles honed in on the bodily experience as her subject, beginning an artistic engagement with the contradictions inherent in one’s own complex, nuanced identity. At Yale, she worked on paper with gestural line making, later translating these forms onto large canvases that allowed her to make broader compositions. These early canvases regularly included written phrases, puns, and patterns that played with ambiguity and manipulated space, simultaneously anchoring and displacing figures. A defined plane with flowers could be a field or blanket, a sky-blue gradient could represent natural light or the flat surface of a desktop computer, as in ‘Let Us In Too (Tha Light)’ (2018).

In her current work, Quarles has moved text from the paintings themselves and into her titles, further winnowing out a predetermined visual narrative. These titles are inspired by overheard phrases, such as in the installation ‘Forced Perspective (And I Kno It’s Rigged, But It’s tha Only Game in Town)’ (2018), a highlight of the Hammer Museum’s ‘Made in L.A.’ exhibition. In that large-scale work, Quarles combined trompe l’oeil floral wallpaper and raw canvas with inscribed poetry and song lyric quotes, to suggest the illusory boundaries that define the self and our often limited interpretations of it.

As her practice has developed, Quarles has engaged in more overtly political subject matter. In 2018, she began work on ‘Casually Cruel’ (2018), heavily influenced by the situation at the US/Mexican border where families were subject to brutal separation. In this painting, two figures are enclosed by a blue plane covered with swirling green lines in a scene sandwiched between stretches of raw canvas. A third figure appears in the blue and green plane, its legs and limbs both trapped and separated from the others.

In terms of technique, Quarles’ avid experimentation and focus on transfiguring the material terrain of the canvas, connects her with such predecessors as late American artist Jack Whitten. Approaching the canvas with no predetermined composition, Quarles begins making marks that evolve into line drawings of human forms and body parts. She then photographs the work and uses Adobe Illustrator to draw the backgrounds and structures that ultimately surround the figures. In a reversal of the typical layering of a composition, Quarles’ figures precede and even dictate the environment that they come to inhabit. Once the composition is created digitally, she paints it onto the canvas, using stencils created by hand or by a vinyl plotter as a guide. Intersecting color, texture, and layers, the resulting works are more akin to relief sculpture than conventional painting – a material outcome that further underscores Quarles’ themes of embodiment and experience for both the artist and the viewer.


BA, Hampshire College, Amherst MA, 2004 – 2007
MFA, Yale University, New Haven CT, 2014 – 2016
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan ME, 2016

Quarles has been the recipient of several awards and grants. She was the inaugural recipient of the 2019 Pérez Art Museum Miami Prize, in 2017 she received the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, and in 2015 she received the Robert Schoelkopf Fellowship at Yale University. In addition, she participated in the Fountainhead Residency in 2017.