Christina Quarles: By Tha Skin of Our Tooth, 2019.
COURTESY HAUSER & WIRTH, NEW YORK, AND PILAR CORRIAS, LONDON
The first thing I noticed when Christina Quarles opened the door for a studio visit was her face—round, inviting, with light and freckled skin, dark and piercing eyes. I extended my hand in greeting, enacting a dynamic that the Los Angeles–based artist explores in her paintings: though she sees faces as central to how we conceive other people as beings with unified bodies, she suggests we experience our own bodies largely through our appendages, a fragmented and abstracted view of ourselves.
The bodies in Quarles’s paintings—always entangled or embracing, often nude but multicolored—never feel whole, even when a viewer can trace which limbs belong to which torso. Laid Down Beside Yew (2019) depicts a tangle of bodies emerging from two planes: one patterned like a tartan blanket, the other an ambiguous green oblong shape. Three faces are present, but devoid of details; what holds the focus is a ravel of arms and legs.