Christina Quarles: Baby, I Want Yew To Know All Tha Folks I Am
December 5, 2017 - January 31, 2018
David Castillo Gallery, Miami Beach
David Castillo Gallery is proud to present Baby, I Want Yew To Know All Tha Folks I Am, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Christina Quarles.
Baby, I Want Yew To Know All Tha Folks I Am questions the boundaries of the body, its limitations and possibilities. Treating materiality as a transgression upon potential, the bodies of Quarles’ subjects—themselves wholly or partially formed—visually melt between each other and their environments. Flesh billows and drapes in uncertain terms, upending the familiar territories of the human form. And limbs grasp, embrace and overlap one another in undefined material symbioses between partnered bodies. The virtuosic ambiguity of these figures is an exercise in untethering the body from the staid traditions of representation, challenging pictorial norms both past and present. Quarles’ paintings are, in many ways, a collective metaphor for the promise of inhabiting a body, adapting its physicality to the wavering desires and urgencies of human behavior.
The Foucauldian impulse of the docile, or disciplined, body is a concept premised on the very tempering of human activity by enclosing the physical self within a given environment—ranging anywhere from the home to the prison. The values of a space impose themselves upon individuals and draw them towards obedience, conditioning and designating the body—and the self by extension—as a tool towards that system’s self-propagation. The malleable bodies of Quarles’ work, however, resist these impositions. Evading the confines of determinate space and form, Quarles’ subjects are resolutely disobedient in the ambiguity of their representation, circumventing the specificity of space as an apparatus that might define or constrain them.
In (Oh, I Fergot, It’s Summertime) Sunday, Ninth of July (2017), a contemplative figure is bisected by a blue plane, as if sinking into the ground or floating above the sky. Existing liminally between here and there, the body’s materiality is brought into question as it slips between dimension. The ground of Yer Tha Sun in my Mourning Babe (2017) similarly rises to meet its subject, who lounges on, and is caught between, a green floor, a floating texture, and a blue sky above. The uncertainty of these figures, and their relationship to these environments, is only heightened by the ambivalence of these spatial elements: the often-decorated planes of color and pattern that suggest anything from ceilings to floors, tabletops, and beds. Anchored in these quasi-interior spaces, the domestic and the everyday play out as undecidable vignettes of indeterminate subject, narrative, and form. Each scene can be partly interpreted by its viewer from the few artifacts that bear familiar resemblance to reality, but discernable meaning in this effect remains fleeting.
The language of Quarles’ work itself, represented in their titles, is similarly caught between slang and phonetic interpretation, disregarding words’ familiar spellings in favor of tongue-in-cheek versions that border on text-speak. The exhibition’s title similarly hinges on this orthographic flippancy, with the added function of thrusting the artist—herself and her modes of representation—within the works; the title suggests that Quarles’ subjects contain her and correspond to the diverging needs, affectations, and impulses she holds within. These works bring together a general irreverence towards proper form in its myriad configurations, sidestepping the many rules—both man-made and natural—that order humanity. Baby, I Want Yew To Know All Tha Folks I Am is an exercise in invention, where Quarles imagines new grammars, power structures, and physics between which the body—even her own—can slip.