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 exhibition features 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.
Destination/El Destino is the culmination project of a year-long residency of Edra Soto at the Art Center, and focuses on the decade-long evolution of the artist’s multimedia GRAFT seriesexploring the architecture of Soto’s native Puerto Rico and its ties to the African Diaspora/Afro-Caribbean tradition.
Soto says, "When I think about a destination, I think about that special place that builds anticipation from within. The exhibition marks a full circle moment in my career, with the first iteration ofGRAFT developed over a decade ago at the Art Center. My last year in residence offered me the space and privacy to reflect on GRAFT as a full body of work, providing an opportunity to bring early and recent developments of the project together as well as literary contributions that have inspired me over ten years of exploration. I hope my work inspires visitors to dream of their own destinations that have to do with their lives, their memories, and their own concerns.”
GRAFT addresses the unsung influence of Afro-diasporic cultures on Puerto Rico’s decorative architecture. The series references two common domestic architectural elements: quiebrasoles, made of concrete blocks, and rejas, ornamental grilles or screens typically cast in wrought iron. In Puerto Rico, quiebrasoles and rejas are arranged in decorative geometric patterns to create shade or act as a protective barrier between the street and the home. The GRAFT series combines elements of quiebrasoles and rejas with documentary photographs and drawings to counter colonial narratives that trace their designs to the Western-European tradition, expanding the voices and visions represented in the architecture of everyday Puerto Rican life. Drawing from the progressive scholarship of architectural historian Jorge Ortiz Colom, GRAFT reiterates how Puerto Rican architecture is indebted to the sub-Saharan African population brought to Puerto Rico as enslaved people to work on plantations.
The exhibition is curated by Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs at the Hyde Park Art Center.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a dynamic public program will feature free game nights, concerts of Afro-Caribbean Bomba y Plena music, and dance nights. The program will also include structured artist and guest speaker conversations about the cultural hybridity and post-colonial consideration present in Soto’s work.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Edra Soto is a Puerto-Rican born artist, curator, educator, and co-director of the outdoor project space, The Franklin. Soto has exhibited extensively at venues including El Museo del Barrio, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's satellite, The Momentary, AK; Albright-Knox Northland, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, IL; Smart Museum, IL and the Abrons Arts Center, NY. Recently, Soto completed a large-scale public art commission titled “Screenhouse”, currently on view at Millennium Park in Chicago. The artist has attended residency programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Beta-Local, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, Headlands Center for the Arts, Project Row Houses and Art Omi, among others. Soto has been awarded the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, the Illinois Arts Council Agency Fellowship, the inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, among others. Between 2019-2020, Soto exhibited and traveled to Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Cuba as part of the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund. 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 artist lives and works in Chicago and is represented by Engage Projects in Chicago.