Puerto Rican born, Edra Soto is an interdisciplinary artist and co-director of the outdoor project space The Franklin. Her recent projects, which are motivated by civic and social actions, prompt viewers to reconsider cross-cultural dynamics, the legacy of colonialism, and personal responsibility. Recent venues presenting Soto’s work include Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's satellite, The Momentary (Arkansas); Albright-Knox Northland (New York); Chicago Cultural Center (Illinois); Smart Museum (Illinois); the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Illinois) and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, (Illinois). In 2019, Soto completed the public art commission titled Screenhouse on view at the Millennium Park, Boeing Gallery North through April 2022. Soto has attended residency programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Maine), Beta-Local (Puerto Rico), the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (Florida), Headlands Center for the Arts, (California), Project Row Houses (Texas) and Art Omi (New York) among others. Soto was awarded the 2016 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, the 2019 Illinois Arts Council Agency Fellowship, the 2019 inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize and the 2020 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant among others. Between 2019-2020 Soto’s work was included in three exhibitions supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund: Repatriation at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Cross Currents at the Smart Museum, and Close to There in Salvador, Brazil. Soto holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico.
The gallery is pleased to announce that Edra Soto will be in conversation with art historian and critic Robert R. Shane organized for the Center for Art and Design at College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY. The talk will focus on Soto's interdisciplinary work around themes of colonization, family, and social justice and will conclude with a poetry reading by Spencer Diaz Tootle.
The gallery is pleased to announce that Edra Soto has received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant is an unrestricted award in which $25,000 is granted to 25 different artists from throughout the United States. Selected artists are first nominated by artist peers and arts professionals from throughout the United States and then chosen through a multi-phase jurying process, which this year was conducted virtually. The 2020 artist cohort represents a wide range of creative approaches and backgrounds as well as ethnicities, ages, and geographic locations—further enumerated below. In addition to the financial award, grantees also gain access to a network of arts professionals, who can provide consultations on career development and financial management.
Edra Soto is currently part of group show, Unreachable Spring, currently on view.
The gallery is pleased to announce that Edra Soto has received the Foundwork Artist Prize. The Foundwork Artist Prize is an annual juried award that we inaugurated in 2019 to recognize outstanding practice by contemporary artists. The honoree receives an unrestricted 10,000 USD grant and studio visits with the distinguished jurors. The honoree and three short-listed artists are also featured in interviews as part of our Dialogues program.
The New York–based Joan Mitchell Foundation has named the twenty-five artists who are recipients of this year’s Painters & Sculptors grants, which are meant to assist artists making exceptional work and who are seen as deserving greater national recognition. Each grantee will receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds. The foundation, which was formed in 1993 to celebrate and expand the abstract painter’s vision, noted in a statement that it felt especially compelled to make the awards this year, given the current landscape in which artists are operating.
At Luis De Jesus in Culver City, a group show gathers a loose array of artworks that were made in response to recent events. With so many crises affecting our country, the work diverges in focus, addressing a range of issues: pandemic’s loneliness, the toppling of monuments, and the lives lost to police brutality. Unusually, the gallery has included artist statements next to each artwork, allowing the viewer into the thinking behind each work, and providing a connective personal tone across the exhibition
While group shows can sometimes lack a coherent vision, this one seems worth a trip. All of the works were made during the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from bitingly political paintings to beautiful reflections on home. The featured artists are June Edmonds, André Hemer, Laura Krifka, Kambui Olujimi, Edra Soto, and Peter Williams.
Unreachable Spring is a group exhibition featuring artists prompted by a desire to take refuge in their work and address this transformational moment in a personal way.
Speaking from separate corners of Chicago, Chicago artists Bob Faust, Edra Soto, and Sadie Woods and art historian Greg Foster-Rice brought warmth, passion, and a will to change the world to their panel discussion of art and its potential as agent of social change (part of the Terra Foundation for American Art’s Art Design Chicago program and the Chicago Humanities Festival).The panel began with each artist showcasing their recent work, beginning with Edra Soto’s Graft, recently displayed at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. Graftborrows from iron screens common in post-war Puerto Rican architecture to allow Soto—and the viewer—to explore the devastation wrought in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria and the later inaction by the United States, the invested colonial power.
These crises have also inspired artists to respond in kind, prompted by a desire to take refuge in their work and address this transformational moment in their own personal way. By creating art that inspires contemplation and elicits discourse, these paintings, sculptures and photographs bear witness and provide a record of how these artists have experienced life over these past six months. Individual artist statements and an essay by Andrew Berardini will be included in their entirety as wall text in the gallery as well as on the gallery website exhibition page and Laura Krifka’s forthcoming Viewing Room.
Puerto Rican artist Edra Soto's work will be featured in "Unreachable Spring," a group exhibit of works done during the Covid-19 pandemic and which opens at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles gallery on Oct. 17. Soto's piece "Let Love Win" depicts many faces on embossed metal which are highlighted by ink of different colors. One of those faces depicts Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed by police in her own apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13 of this year.
Edra Soto spoke with Esthetic Lens recently as part of our Creative Quarantine feature. She brought us into the loop about projects that were put on hold because of quarantine, projects that still moved ahead, the current iteration of her GRAFT piece, and using her Instagram account to advocate for social justice.
Edra Soto’s ongoing 24 Hours project, in which she collects and glorifies discarded liquor bottles, and her GRAFT series, inspired by the iron rejas screens in her native Puerto Rico, have heavily influenced the trajectory of her art career and public interventions. These bottles and iron-wrought kaleidoscopic and geometric formations have graced her home in Garfield Park (where she also co-directs The Franklin, a backyard artist-run project space); the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Blue Line Western Station; the Chicago Cultural Center and, most recently, Millennium Park, where her first public art commission Screenhouse, will be on view for two years.
Chicago-based artist Edra Soto made a gate studded with viewfinders. They show tiny images she captured in Puerto Rico the day after the hurricane. And another artist has an entire installation open for visitors – it’s a recreated beauty salon that explores the struggle of businesses owned by women on the island. The show was organized by Columbia College’s Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography has reopened with the exhibit “Temporal: Puerto Rican Resistance,” an exploration of Puerto Rico’s contemporary history documenting protests, life during and after Hurricane María and the art of the resistance. Artists include Christopher Gregory-Rivera, Natalia Lassalle-Morillo, Mari B. Robles López, Eduardo Martínez, Ojos Nebulosos, Adriana Parrilla, Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, Erika P. Rodríguez, Edra Soto, SUPAKID, and Rogelio Báez Vega
You know what actually, was our very first collaboration? The ‘I Love Chicago Project.’ From when I was in my MFA studio at SAIC. It was an installation to bring together all types of disciplines—sound, performance, musicians. A lion, and a lion tamer. Even then, I was drawn toward leading a project space. I had a fascination with crossing the boundaries.
I expect to see a post-epidemic rising of physical modifications made to existing public spaces and new spaces designed with public distancing considerations in mind. Perhaps these changes manifest more through policy rather than physically, but maybe we will see a combination of both. Most of my work is motivated by a public approach to design a space or an activation. This is something I’m hoping I don’t have to give up in the future, but I wouldn't be surprised by future changes.
Highlights that both flaunt the space’s architectural potential and honor the integrity of the artwork include Edra Soto’s Open 24 Hours (2017). Her pristine white vitrines house polished liquor bottles found on her daily walks in Chicago’s Garfield Park, challenging notions of “detritus” and making an industrial room devoid of natural light shine.
We came across an installation from Puerto Rican Edra Soto. It's called Open 24 Hours and looks like different stands with several polished glass bottles inside, some clear, some green. And the art has a creative story to go with it: On her walks through Garfield Park, Edra Soto noticed how the streets became a "24/7 living history of a place," always collecting waste on display for all to see. Inspired by the high number of liquor bottles, she began taking them home, removing their labels and photographing them. One man's trash is another woman's art.
I’ve been running THE FRANKLIN with my husband Dan Sullivan since 2012. THE FRANKLIN is a gazebo type of space designed by us and located in the backyard of our home. After completing my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000, the artist-run community in Chicago became my preferred to-go-to community. I was fascinated by the energy, enthusiasm, comradery and complicitness I kept finding while experiencing the artists-run spaces. This experience brought me lifetime friendships, my first exhibition at a major Chicago art museum and an invaluable collection of art that continues to grow. Exchange, support and the gift of visibility are all a part of the M.O. that motivates us to foster the artist-run model as an intricate part of our life philosophy.
Multidisciplinary artist Edra Soto raises important issues through simple means. Her large-scale sculptures and interventions are modeled on ornate fencing and other architectural details native to Puerto Rico; they’re a subtle introduction to a rich and nuanced cultural history. Recently, she’s begun including “viewfinders” within these fence-like constructions, loaded with photographs from the island and elsewhere. Her projects are simultaneously universal and intensely personal—as is the case with her ongoing fascination with Iris Chacón, a performer and entertainer she first encountered on television as a child.
Edra Soto's warmth, generosity, and kindness are apparent (and contagious). She speaks candidly about her work, her influences, and her upbringing in Cupey, Puerto Rico. Her motivations, her life experiences, and her perspectives push her audience to more closely examine their own neighborhoods, sidewalks, fences and homes. In a contemporary art world that can often reject the participation of the audience, Soto takes the hands of her viewers and looks them in the eye. She acknowldges their bodies, their physical presence, and their memories. Her artistic and personal lives are bound together, which some might consider a great risk. However, her exceptional body of work deomnstrates the opportunity for shared growth by revealing vulnerabilities.
Hall and Soto’s “Forgotten Forms” is a clever composition of seemingly everyday objects that play off of each other’s vibrant colors and visual architecture in order to paint a vivid image of neighborhood identity.
Soto pays tribute to her native Puerto Rico by centering the exhibit around the coral-pink patterned concrete blocks or “quiebrasoles,” used as bus shelters in urban areas to shield waiting passengers from the sun. Additionally, the exhibit contains a massive series of pink “rejas,” or iron fences, another colorful feature of urban Puerto Rico.
Edra Soto’s Open 24 Hours is an exploration of consumption, waste, and vernacular architecture. Discarded liquor bottles accumulated during Soto’s daily walks through East Garfield Park in Chicago are transformed into jewel-like totems. Rejas, decorative iron screens enclosing outdoor domestic areas in Puerto-Rico, also serves as an influence on the work—highlighting an interplay between security and ornamentation. They are beautiful, haunting, socially conscious works.
In 2016, poet and author Claudia Rankine received $625,000 as a stipend from her MacArthur Genius Grant and decided to put the funds toward founding The Racial Imaginary Institute, an organization that gives artists and writers a platform to address issues of race. This summer, the Institute has found its new home at The Kitchen in New York, through a series of programs surrounding the exhibition On Whiteness, incorporating a day long symposium, a library of books, residencies, and performances.
News media, despite respective biases, seem to agree in the description of contemporary politics as “complicated” and “divided.” While accurate, this semantic admission fails to demonstrate the accountability of the status quo. Soul Recordings, a group exhibition currently on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, examines ideas around representation and meaning amid the persisting trauma of colonial histories.
The opening movement of “Soul Recordings” is a polka-dot revelry, a bedazzled wake-up call, a cymbal-clap altarpiece, a plastic-bead trumpet blast, and a monster of a skull-ringed, glitter-bombed orchestral chord breaking in fuchsia major. This is Ebony G. Patterson’s heartbreaking and eminently Instagrammable mixed media installation work, and the poignant grandeur of its regal and folkloric memento mori is alert and ineffable.
Soul Recordings, at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. A group exhibition featuring works by artists such as Lisa C. Soto, Deborah Roberts, Caitlin Cherry and Lex Brown shines a spotlight on our state of political unease. This includes work that examines neocolonial architecture, painting that toys with the nature of stereotype and textile work that takes on issues of gender. Accompanying the exhibition will be an essay written by independent curator Jill Moniz, who organized the very compelling show of sculpture by African American female artists at the Landing last year.