The photography of Mark Aghatise and Gioncarlo Valentine, 2018 En Foco fellows, was featured in two solo exhibitions at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR.
June 6–30, 2019
Artist talk: Thursday, June 6, 5:00 PM
In Study One, Mark Aghatise manipulates photographs to examine “the bifurcation of self that occurs in contemporary urban life.” Upon moving to New York City, Aghatise became distinctly aware of the tendency for people to split into public and private personas, and of their desire, or need, to create and market a perfect outward version of themselves. At the same time, he was grappling with similar questions regarding himself, his body, and his feelings of dysmorphia in relation to it.
Aghatise found an avenue for this self-examination through his work as an editorial photographer. He writes, “Through photographing other black bodies, I began to better understand my own and ultimately how to contort and queer the space it inhabits.” Regarding his process with his subjects, he states, “I analyzed during our shoots whether there was a difference in their public self that they would bring to set and the private self that would reveal itself by the end of the session. Noting the differences, I worked to use tactile manipulations of their image to reflect what I perceived in each of them. I wanted to craft a more cohesive image, reflecting the layers.”
Mark Aghatise is a London-born, New York-based artist. His work explores the processes of deconstructing and constructing images of the black male figure. Movement, repetition, and the failure of both are central to his photographic studies and endeavors. His work interrogates our current cultural understanding and relationship to photographs and photography as a medium. Through a design-oriented lens, Aghatise scans, rips, and distorts images to question and stretch our perception of reality within a photograph to make audiences conscious of their perspective and gaze.
The Soft Fence
June 6–30, 2019
Artist talk: Saturday, June 8, 3:00 PM
“When I hear Black men say they don’t cry, is this genuine? Has hardness forced the tears from them permanently? Are they able?… How many men in our community are flailing beneath the weight of their performances, and what are the real life consequences?”
In The Soft Fence, Gioncarlo Valentine explores what is beyond the wall of performative hypermasculinity within Black culture. Having grown up queer and femme-presenting, Valentine’s work is influenced by his desire to understand the experiences of straight men in his community and the standards of masculinity imposed on them. These photographs are “a series of questions about access, performance, proximity, Black manhood, and Black brotherhood,” in which Valentine asks viewers to question where the performance begins and ends, and what preconceived ideas they may have about his subjects.
Gioncarlo Valentine (b. 1990) is an American documentary/portraiture photographer and writer currently based in New York. Valentine hails from Baltimore City and attended Towson University in Maryland. His work focuses on issues faced by marginalized populations, most often focusing his lens on the experiences of Black/LGBTQIA+ communities. Valentine was named a 2018 En Foco Photography Fellow and was a member of the 2018 class of Skowhegan’s School of Painting and Sculpture. He is a contributing photographer for The New York Times and has had his work published in Propublica, The Fader, Essence, THEM, Harpers Bazaar, and Newsweek, among other publications.
Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts, is a nonprofit exhibition space and community research center dedicated to educating the public about photography through exhibitions, public programs, and publications, and dialogue; and to furthering the careers and artistic development of the artists we show.