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 solo/two person exhibitions include Toolbox @ Twenty: The Seldoms, Hyde Park Art Center and Jackman Goldwisser Catwalk Gallery, Chicago, IL; The Myth of Closure/El Mito de Cierre, Cleve Carney Museum of Art, Glen Ellyn, IL;Platform: Edra Soto GRAFT, curated by Ylinka Barotto, Moody Center of the Arts, Rise University, Houston, TX. Notable group exhibitions include, Through The Lattice, Surrey Art Gallery, British Columbia, Canada; No Existe Un Mundo Poshuracan: Puerto Rican Art In The Wake Of Hurricane Maria, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; and We Didn’t Ask Permission, We Just Did It..., Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO. Soto’s work resides in collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL: DePaul Art Museum at DePaul University, Chicago, IL; Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR; The Fidelity Investments Corporate Art Collection, Boston, MA; Google Art Collection, Mountain Valley, CA; The Berezdivin Collection, Espacio 1414, Santurce, PR; and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Washington D.C.Soto has attended residency programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine; Beta-Local in Puerto Rico; the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency in Florida; Headlands Center for the Arts in California; Project Row Houses in Texas; and Art Omi in New York, among others. Soto is the recipient of several awards including the Ree Kaneko Award, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE, a 2022 Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Chicago, IL, as well as a 2020 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant, Illinois Arts Council Agency Fellowship in 2019 and 2022, 2019 inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize, and a 2016 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, 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.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is proud to announce the Whitney Museum of American Art's acquisition of GRAFT, 2022, by Edra Soto. GRAFT was featured in the museum's landmark exhibition “no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria," organized by the DeMartini Family Senior Curator, Marcela Guerrero. The gallery wishes to thank the museum and everyone who made this acquisition possible.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is proud to announce that gallery artist Edra Soto has been awarded the Bemis Center's 2022 Ree Kaneko Award. This annual award is bestowed to artists that have participated in Bemis's exhibition or residency programs and is named in honor of Ree Kaneko, Bemis Center co-founder, first Executive Director, and Board Member Emerita.
The Bemis Center's Ree Kaneko Award was created to award $25,000 unrestricted, by nomination to an alum of the program to provide financial support to increase the capacity of an artists practice. There will be a conversation held with Edra Soto: March 9, 6–7pm
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to invite you to an exhibition walk-through and conversation between artist Edra Soto and curator Joey Lico in conjunction with EDRA SOTO: The Myth of Closure / El Mito del Cierre, on Wednesday, December 15 at 7:00 p.m. This is an in-person event. Reservations are not required, but encouraged.
In a suprise announcement from Hyde Park Art Center this last Monday it was made known that the center had received an anonymous donation of $560,000 to be distrubuted to artist run spaces and curatorial ventures in Chicago. With this grant money they have decided to award $8,000 to each of their participants of "Artist Run Chicago" and the rest will be disbursed into 20 additional grants. Amongst the grant reciepients is Edra Soto's space, The Franklin. The Franklin, which is run out of her home, is a beloved community-oriented show space in East Garfield Park.
The gallery is pleased to announce that Edra Soto's Open 24 Hours (Albright-Knox ), was recently aquired by the DePaul Art Museum at DePaul University, Chicago. Soto, who recently participated in group show Unreachable Spring also became affliated with the gallery this year. Her work is an unrelenting love song of purserverance and community action through the challenges of socio-economic disparity and institutional racism. Her work Open 24 Hours was conceived on her daily dog walks through Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood where she would collect discarded liquor bottles that she would come across in vacant lots.
In conjunction with the final week of the Unreachable Spring, the gallery will host an artist talk on Zoom, December 19th, 1:00 PM PST / 4:00 PM EST moderated by Luis De Jesus and Lindsay Preston Zappas. This conversation will serve as a summation of the exhibition and provide insight and dialogue towards the socio-political atmophere in which these works were created. From isolation and death, to social activism, to personal responses to systemic oppression, we speak with our artists about making art during a year unlike any other.
Leilani Lynch, curator at The Bass Museum of Art in Miami selected a group of works to highlight as part of the virtual UNTITLED, ART Miami Beach art fair. Within her selection both Edra Soto and Kambui Olujimi's installation works were featured.
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 Hyde Park Art Center and Chicago-based artist Edra Soto describe the artist’s show, “Destination/El Destino: A Decade of Graft” as a mid-project survey: Soto is definitely not finished with the series of work that is the show’s subject. The title references the transplantation, or grafting, of a piece of the artist’s Puerto Rican heritage onto her Chicago home.
Puerto Rican artist, educator and community organizer Edra Soto’s largest exhibit to date is all the buzz at the Hyde Park Art Center. Showcasing her large-scale GRAFT series featuring sculptures that blend elements of Afro-diasporic architecture, accompanied by documentary photographs and drawings that counter colonial narratives, Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT illuminates the past through her work, highlighting the enslaved sub-Saharan African population’s influence on Puerto Rican architecture.
A sculpture by Edra Soto invites us to reconsider how we look at images of destruction. As part of her ongoing project GRAFT (2022-), the artist recreates Puerto Rican quiebrasoles – literally “break the sun” – latticed concrete screens that are ubiquitous features of vernacular architecture on the island.
Elsewhere, Edra Soto presents an iteration of her ongoing series, “GRAFT,” now in its tenth year. A red-painted architectural intervention based on cast-iron fences seen throughout Puerto Rico, the piece contains images of the sky or the trees that are meant to “show the transformation of the landscape” after Maria as opposed to more graphic images of devastation and destruction, she said. “When the hurricane happened, that was probably the most depressing time of my life living in Puerto Rico. I felt in my bones that it was something that I needed to document.”
The Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago, mounts the largest solo exhibition to date of works by Puerto Rican artist and educator Edra Soto. "Destination/El Destino: A Decade of Graft" consists of large-scale sculptures, photographs, drawings and games and includes her latest work, which features more than 500 tin stars hand-tooled by the artist.
Puerto Rican artist, educator and community organizer Edra Soto’s forthcoming largest exhibit to date is set to be all the buzz at the Hyde Park Art Center. Showcasing her large-scale GRAFT series featuring sculptures that blend elements of Afro-diasporic architecture, accompanied by documentary photographs and drawings that counter colonial narratives, Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT illuminates the past through her work, highlighting the enslaved sub-Saharan African population’s influence on Puerto Rican architecture.
Devoted readers of this column might remember a short item about artist Edra Soto a few months back around her exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, which mentioned her local ubiquity, with an installation in Millennium Park and participation in prominent group projects at the Chicago Botanic Garden and with the dance troupe The Seldoms. Both bolstering the item's argument and undercutting its newsworthiness, a press release hit my inbox two days later announcing Soto's "largest solo exhibition to date," at the Hyde Park Art Center, opening this week.
“GRAFT,” draws on architectural motifs—repeating stars, circles, and other shapes— ubiquitous in Puerto Rico that have since been exported all over the world. In her work, Soto, who was born in Puerto Rico, highlights the cultural appropriation of these patterns, which were originally found on cast-iron fences outside homes in Puerto Rico.
Edra Soto: Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT
(Hyde Park Art Center)
An exploration of the artist’s long-running project inspired by the vernacular architecture of Puerto Rico
Opens April 22
Issues of the journal regularly include original artwork. Portable Gray commissions artists to produce the journal’s cover and publish work in the pages of the journal. For the fourth issue, Portable Gray commissioned images from Edra Soto’s “Open 24 Hours,” an ongoing series of photographs Soto takes of bottles she collects in and around her neighborhood in South Chicago.
“Prolific” understates the artworks artist Edra Soto has contributed to the cultural scene, radiating from Chicago and stretching to New York, California, Brazil, and beyond. Born in Puerto Rico, Soto treats her roots as a blueprint, building expansive bodies of work upon the boundless inspiration she finds within them.
Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT is the largest exhibition to date of the Puerto Rican artist, educator, and community organizer Edra Soto. Rooted in themes of cultural hybridity, the exhibitionfeatures a new large-scale commission of the artist’s GRAFT series with porous sculptures, documentary photographs, drawings, and games that activate the Art Center’s indoor/outdoor main gallery. Creating a playful and open environment for dialogue, transformation, and communal healing, Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT is on view from April 23 to August 6, 2023.
Steeped in the history of iron screen-style architecture common in post-war Puerto Rico, artist Edra Soto's new residency and exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego's North campus will showcase large installation works. Breeze blocks known as quiebrasoles and iron gates known as rejas form the backdrop — almost a viewfinder — for Soto's work. Soto will be in residence through late May, and will be on site for "Meet the Artist" hours this Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
This Thursday, 03-09-23, (6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) Edra Soto will give a talk as the 2022 Ree Kaneko Award winner. This annual award is bestowed to artists who have participated in Bemis's exhibition or residency programs and is named in honor of Ree Kaneko, Bemis Center co-founder, first Executive Director, and Board Member Emerita.
The Schingoethe Center of Aurora University’s “No Place Like Home” features artwork by 38 artists, including Theaster Gates, Dorothea Lange, Sally Mann, Wendy Red Star, Edra Soto, and Carrie Mae Weems.
The Schingoethe Center of Aurora University presents "No Place Like Home," an exhibition featuring artwork by 38 artists, including Theaster Gates, Dorothea Lange, Sally Mann, Wendy Red Star, Edra Soto and Carrie Mae Weems. It continues through April 28.
Chicago-based artist Edra Soto is having a moment with two back-to-back exhibitions:
“The Myth of Closure /El Mito del Cierre” continues through March 5 at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, and her largest exhibition to date, “Edra Soto: Destination/Destino: A Decade of Graft” at the Hyde Park Art Center, is presented April 23 to August 6.
Every three years, participating Tennessee museums, arts venues, and arts organizations curate and present exhibitions under a common theme designed to connect the exhibitions and promote the state’s existing visual contemporary art scene. This year’s theme for the Triennial is RE-PAIR, authored by Consulting Curator Dr. Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons. Participation came from curators from institutions in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Each of the four centers will enjoy a highlight weekend of scheduled events and receptions at participating venues.
Through the Lattice reflects upon the ongoing relevance of the lived environment, whether as owned, alienated, or desired. Each artist foregrounds the role of place—and its aesthetics of style, ornament, design, pattern, and architecture—in their recent works. Though diverse in their methods, the artists share a concern with the deeper meanings of space as well as its material construction.
The work of 15 of those artists was brought together in what is already the first academic exhibition focused on Puerto Rican art organized by a major U.S. museum in half a century. It is called "There Is No Post-Hurricane World: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria," and it will be on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art, noted for its spectacular collection of modern and contemporary American art.
The Chicago-based Puerto Rican-born artist is having a moment. Her show “The Myth of Closure” is at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art through March 5, and she now has work at New York’s Whitney Museum. Soto’s biggest solo exhibition yet – “Destination/El Destino” – comes to Hyde Park Art Center in the spring. Large-scale, immersive works are often embedded with viewfinders that reveal documentary photos upon closer inspection. Many tackle the legacy of colonialism and question the use of public spaces.
Edra Soto was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. She was visiting her mother when, she tells me, “I lost my landscape.” The destruction affected her immensely. She saw things that she felt she could not speak aloud. After being faced with the loss of her home landscape, she began to document the disaster. “I had never seen Puerto Rico the way that it looked then. I had never seen the landscape in that way. I felt, in my bones, that I was part of something historical.”
Hyde Park Art Center announces “Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT,” the largest exhibition to date of the Puerto Rican artist, educator and community organizer Edra Soto. Rooted in themes of cultural hybridity, the exhibition features a new large-scale commission of the artist’s “GRAFT” series with porous sculptures, documentary photographs, drawings, and games that take advantage of the Art Center’s indoor and outdoor main gallery.
Politically minded to the core, the Whitney show is also a thing of serious tenderness, and of many individual beauties, among them Candida Alvarez’s double-sided mountain landscapes; Edra Soto’s sculptural garden wall embedded with viewfinder photos of storm-altered island life; and painted salutes — part public mural, part prayer card — to secular martyrs of the near and distant past by Armig Santos, based in San Juan, and Danielle de Jesus, based in Queens.
A solo exhibition of works by multidisciplinary artist Edra Soto, “The Myth of Closure | El Mito del Cierre,” opens soon at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art. Soto “has transformed her practice to honor the loss of what once was, while seeking a path of acceptance for the transition of her aging mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s,” writes the Museum.. “She channels her struggle to reconcile this new reality through deconstruction, collage and familiar themes in her art practice.”
The Seldoms share the process and outcomes of four Toolbox projects now through November 3 at the Hyde Park Art Center, in celebration of the company’s twentieth anniversary. Hanson, along with company members Damon Green, Dee Alba and Sarah Gonsiorowski developed dances inspired by the creative practices of sculptor Edra Soto, sound artist Sadie Woods, painter Jackie Kazarian and fiber artist Jacqueline Surdell.
Across town, in downtown L.A., Luis de Jesus Los Angeles has a trifecta of shows that engage architecture in different ways. Nicolas Grenier uses a labyrinth structure as a site for presenting diagrammatic paintings that chart questions of governance (and more metaphysical questions of color), while in a separate space, painter Laura Karetzky compellingly riffs on the nature of the window — as structure, but also as metaphor. In addition, artist Edra Soto dwells on the memories and social signifiers embedded in architecture, reproducing brise soileil structures typical of vernacular Puerto Rican design, but placing within them tiny transparency viewers that feature images of people and places.
Flags have a history as a contentious subject in art, probably because of their lasting grip on our political imaginations. In 1970, for instance, three artists were convicted of flag desecration in New York, and in 1988, Dread Scott sparked controversy by layinga U.S. flag on the ground. I thought of those incidents when seeing “Counter Flags,” curated by Natalia Viera Salgado, a co-founder of the art space Pública in Puerto Rico and a resident at Abrons Arts Center. The exhibition is a mini philosophical inquiry into flags as symbols of nationalism, with attendant pride and critique. Edra Soto and the duo Melissa Raymond and René Sandín contribute eye-catching celebrations of Puerto Rican culture, although a version of Soto’s work, “Tropicalamerican 21” (2021), was recently and more evocatively displayed on Governors Island, where it blew in a sunroom, accompanied by music.
Like transplanting skin, interdisciplinary artist Edra Soto inserts her replicas of vernacular Puerto Rican architectural forms, namely the wrought iron rejas screens and concrete quiebrasoles ubiquitous on the island, into new spaces throughout the Americas in her ongoing GRAFT series. The migration of these forms becomes a metaphor for literal migration, raising issues of colonization, identity, and family in works that stretch wall-to-wall across galleries spaces or become free-standing structures, such as Screenhouse—her public commission for Chicago’s Millennium Park on view through April 2022.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles has revealed works by its artists that have recently added to museum collections. The Nasher Museum in Durham, North Carolina, acquired Peter Williams‘s 2020 painting Birdland; the Baltimore Museum of Art acquired photos from two series, “Relationship” and “Before and After,” by Zackary Drucker; Federico Solmi‘s video installation The Great Farce Portable Theater was acquired by the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.; Edra Soto’s installation Open 24 Hours is now held in the collection of the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago; and five works by Erik Olson have been acquired by the Art Gallery of Alberta in Calgary, Canada. Additionally, the gallery announced that Lia Halloran has been named a 2020–21 City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellow. As such, Halloran will be awarded a $10,000 grant to produce a new body of work.
The show also features work by June Edmonds, André Hemer, Kambui Olujimi, and Edra Soto. This Saturday, December 19, all six participating artists will be talking about “making art during a year unlike any other”in a Zoom conversation moderated by Luis De Jesus and Lindsay Preston Zappas, editor-in-chief of CARLA. While we sorely miss in-person events, remote talks like this one make it easier for all artists to participate, so don’t miss this rare occasion.
Unreachable Spring takes its title from the eponymous painting by Laura Krifka. The painting was slated to be featured as the sole work in her first Viewing Room on the gallery website, accompanied by an essay by the writer and art critic Andrew Berardini. Laura began the painting in late March—within days of the start of the Covid lockdown in the U.S., and shortly after learning that she and her husband were expecting their first child. By summer it had become clear to us that it was the lede for a deeper exploration of ideas and subject matter.
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.
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.
Graft (2018), the most recent version of Soto’s ongoing series of architectural interventions, transforms the Cultural Center’s lower-level gallery into a site for active viewing and engagement, in keeping with this civic institution’s public mission and the artist’s commitment to social practice. The central component is a continuous wood screen that runs the length of the gallery’s street-side windows, obscuring our view of the outside world. Instead, the viewer’s gaze is directed to the screen inside, painted a vibrant monochrome coral and punctuated with a rhythmic pattern of geometric cut-outs.
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.
Edra is a conceptual artist working out of her home in Garfield Park surrounded by two dogs, several masks, and an array of work that her and her husband have collected over the years. It was this collection that was a major piece of inspiration for THE FRANKLIN, an exhibition space and free-standing structure existing just behind their home.