Edra Soto: Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT

Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT offers a mid-project survey of the GRAFT series to date by artist Edra Soto. A native of Puerto Rico, Soto began the GRAFT series to address the complex sentiments generated from migrating to the US while remaining connected to family on the island—a feeling of dislocation compounded by Puerto Rico’s ambiguous status as an unincorporated territory of the United States. Soto titled the series GRAFT, which means to move living tissue from one side to another, to imagine the transplant of her homeland to the place she now lives, Chicago. The geometric patterns consistent in Soto’s work are representative of the decorative architecture ubiquitous among houses throughout Puerto Rico. These patterns have been traced to African symbols transported through colonial trade routes. Over time, Soto has deepened the concept of GRAFT to discuss the overlooked influence of Afro-diasporic cultures on Puerto Rico’s architecture and identity in addition to the transplantation of Puerto Rican identity onto US territory and culture.

Exhibited widely in museums, galleries, private residences, and public parks across the nation, the GRAFT series was first developed at Hyde Park Art Center during Soto’s participation in the critique-based sessions of the Center Program in 2013. Each GRAFT installation is an architectural intervention made to fit in response to the exterior of a building, volume of space, and/or surrounding environment, and must be deconstructed—sometimes destroyed—after the exhibition. Soto employs a variety of nonprecious materials in her work—from tape, cut adhesive vinyl, tin, plywood, and a compressed plastic called Sintra—ensuring that the work is ephemeral. The artist intentionally repurposes her materials for future artworks, which disrupts the chronological order of her work while creating a visual overlap of designs that connect disparate spaces through her GRAFT installations.

The synthesis of forms that define the GRAFT series within the show present the ongoing development of the artist’s reimagination of home. This exhibition curated by Allison Peters Quinn in collaboration with the artist includes the fifteen remaining sculptural fragments of past GRAFT installations, a new large metallic house-like structure Destination/El Destino, and represents twenty-three works in the series through floor plans. Recent iterations of GRAFT include small viewfinders embedded in the void of geometric patterns in Soto’s installations. For this exhibition, the viewfinders present a documentary image of the GRAFT work in its original installation and location. The exhibition also highlights the longtime collaboration between Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan, her partner and founder of Navillus Woodworks. The game work dominodomino and the design renderings of all of the GRAFT works displayed on the south wall were fabricated by Navillus Woodworks.

Exhibition installation images by Eugene Tang & Tom Van Eynde

  •  April 22 – August 6, 2023
  • Gallery 1 & Jackman Goldwasser Catwalk Gallery

Edra Soto: Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT

Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT an interview with Edra Soto. from lumpen on Vimeo.

A conversation between Edra Soto @edrasoto and Esmeralda M. Guerrero about the solo exhibition Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT at Hyde Park Art Center. Concentrating on the decade-long series of artworks by Chicago-based, Puerto Rican artist, educator, and organizer Edra Soto, while introducing a new large-scale commissioned work speculating on the evolution of the GRAFT series. @hydeparkartcenter


About Edra Soto

Image by Steph Murray

Edra Soto is a Puerto-Rican born artist, curator, educator, and co-director of the outdoor project space, The Franklin. Soto instigate meaningful, relevant, and often difficult conversations surrounding socioeconomic and cultural oppression, erasure of history, and loss of cultural knowledge. Growing up in Puerto Rico, and now immersed in her Chicago community, Soto’s work has evolved to raise questions about constructed social orders, diasporic identity, and the legacy of colonialism. Soto has exhibited extensively at venues including El Museo del Barrio (NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago (IL), ICA San Diego, (CA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY). She has been awarded the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, the Illinois Arts Council Agency Fellowship, the inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant and the Bemis Center’s Ree Kaneko Award among others. 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.