© Peres Projects / Photography: Jerzy Goliszewski

Born in Cuba and now based in Puerto Rico, artist Dalton Gata takes the Caribbean diaspora as his central subject. Using bold and vivid colours he imbues his canvases with an energy that draws on the vibrancy of Caribbean visual culture, lending brightness and vigor to the painted surface. The artist currently has a solo show at Peres Projects gallery in Berlin, entitled Portrait for Loneliness. Although visually rich, it addresses the motif of the passport photo – a typically colourless portrait – through which Gata considers the parallel realities of privilege and marginalization that are embedded in such forms of official identification. He recognises the passport photo as a constrictive genre of image, one which classifies and segregates individuals based on nationality and presumed birthright. As reflected in the title, through this series the artist emphasises the experience of solitude that is particular to the immigrant: leaving one’s home is often a sacrifice of the familiar.

Yet, while the exhibition addresses this by making reference the passport photo as an alienating visual form, Gata renders his portraits of ambiguously gendered figures deliberately inadequate to official standards. They are images that do not comply with border control and the bureaucratic management of people in transit. In response, Gata accentuates the unusual or eccentric features of his sitters, but also wear extraordinary costumes or are elaborately made-up with colourfully shadowed eyes and painted lips, effectively subverting the government sanctioned criteria that determine not only the visual qualities of a passport photo, but a person’s right to citizenship. Through these works Gata also reveals the psychology of each sitter, making visible both their unique physical characteristics in an expression of defiance and empowerment, while also divulging the interior life of the figures he paints. Gata’s background in fashion design is evident in this body of work, expressed via the sartorial choices of his figures.

The gaze is significant in these paintings as well: whether staring directly at the viewer, or off into the distance, his subjects regard their surroundings with serious attention, and it is through these eccentric and elegant figures that the artist also reflects on conventional standards of beauty and gender in contemporary society. The uniqueness of Gata’s painted figures addresses the mounting instability of our times, as well the experiences of migrant communities in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world. His work recognises the myriad and fluid expressions of gender and sexual identity in Caribbean culture, while also celebrating the region’s racial diversity. Gata pulls this spirit of celebration together with a subversion of the standard passport photo in order to propose expansive and queer forms of self expression, self-actualization and acceptance (on through Nov 11).

Peres Projects
Karl Marx Allee 82 (Friedrichshain)
10243 Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 275950770
Mon-Fri 11am-6pm

© Peres Projects / Photography: Jerzy Goliszewski / Dalton Gata – Foto No. 2, Passaport photo line 1, Foto No. 6 and Foto No. 7 (2022)