CHICAGO (March 28, 2023)— Hyde Park Art Center proudly presents Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT, the largest solo exhibition to date of Puerto Rican artist, educator, and community organizer Edra Soto. The exhibition offers a broad survey of the artist’s entire GRAFT series that originated in 2013, and premiers a new large-scale commission created in part during the artist’s 2022 year-long residency at the Art Center. Examining the reality of living in diaspora, the interactive exhibition encompassing large sculptures, documentary photographs, and games, will activate the Art Center’s main gallery that doubles as an indoor and outdoor space, serving as a playful hub for dialogue, rest, and communal healing throughout the summer season. Destination/El Destino: a decade of GRAFT will be on view from April 22 – August 6, 2023.
Comprising of over a dozen sculptures and a large-scale immersive sculpture occupying the entire 2,400-square-foot gallery, Destination/El Destino celebrates a decade-long exploration of GRAFT, the artist’s widely-exhibited multimedia sculpture series addressing the unsung influence of Afro-diasporic cultures on Puerto Rico’s decorative architecture.
The exhibition’s title work, the new commission Destination/El Destino, pays homage to the artist’s physical and creative journey in building her signature style of geometrically patterned work, while recognizing a conclusive point of reflection on the series’ accomplishments to date. The newest sculpture highlights the pattern of a four-point star inspired by Adinkra symbology originating from the Akan culture of Ghana. Over 500 hand-tooled tin stars rendered by the artist are strung together to make the brilliant facade of this 60 (l) x 12 (w) x 12 (h) ft. sculpture. During the creation of this piece, Soto invited community members into her studio at the Art Center to play Dominoes and have informal conversations that shaped the concept of this work.
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, countering colonial narratives that trace their designs to the Western-European tradition. All iterations of GRAFT reference two domestic architectural elements commonly found in Puerto Rican homes built in the ’50s and ’60s: quiebrasoles, made of concrete blocks, and rejas, ornamental grilles or screens typically cast in wrought iron. In Puerto Rico, quiebrasoles and rejas are used in vernacular architecture and arranged in decorative geometric patterns to create shade or act as a protective barrier between the street and the home. The root of the symbology traces back to Africa, as the patterns in fact originated in Ghana; Fascinated by their history and representation of migration, Soto transported the house facade motif to American territories in her own imagination that became the concept of GRAFT, which literally carries the meaning of skin transplant. The GRAFT series combines these design elements to construct independent artworks that function as relief work on walls, stand-alone sculptures, or large walk-in sculptures as representations of home. Later works in the series include small peep holes embedded in Soto’s patterns for viewers to look into and see photographs of the artists’ homeland and family.
Soto shares the sentiment behind the title of the exhibition, and what the project aims to achieve: “When I thought about Destination/El Destino, I really liked how these terms behave in English and Spanish. In English, it feels more pragmatic. The term in Spanish feels to me a bit more melancholic. Desire and aspiration is inherent in the word ‘destination,’ as if ‘I want to.’ However, in the case of people that migrate, it sounds more like ‘I need to’ or ‘I hope to get there/be there’ or ‘I have to.’ I hope this exhibition will spark conversations around what belongs to us, living in diaspora, the mental and physical struggles of migrating, the traumas as a consequence of a colonial condition, and the points of connection that makes us feel that we are not alone in this. I also hope that people feel engaged and compelled by an environment that instigates reflection and sparks imagination.”
Exhibition curator and Art Center Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs Allison Peters Quinn says, “Here we are fully committed to supporting artists at every stage with all our resources, from introducing new audiences via public programs, providing a creative haven via residencies, to launching them into the next phase of career by commissioning new works for exhibitions. Destination/El Destino is a magical full-circle tale of witnessing an artist grow within the supportive system at the Art Center. The early stage of GRAFT began 10 years ago as Edra researched and prototyped its form during her participation in our 2013 Center Program, a critique-based class for artists to push their practice towards new concepts. For the latest development of GRAFT, she became part of our residency program to work on the tin forms, welcoming the community to engage with her process. I am excited to see the conversations this exhibition fosters and what will become next for Edra.”
This exhibition is generously supported by the Abakanowicz Foundation.
Spring Center Day
Saturday, April 22, 1–4 p.m., free
Center Day is a family-friendly day of intergenerational art making, artist workshops and talks, open studios, exhibition celebrations, and community collaborations. Celebrate the exhibition opening with art-making activities and community interactions. The Creative Wing artist studios are open for visiting with work by Eric Perez, Sofía Fernández Díaz, Kushala Vora, Rhonda Wheatley, Candace Hunter, zakkiyyah najeebah dumas o’neal, Juarez Hawkins, and Malika Jackson.
Spanish Language Exhibition Tours | SURVIVING THE LONG WARS: Unlikely Entanglements and Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT
Thursday, May 4, 5–7 p.m., free
The Art Center offers free guided tours of spring exhibitions in Spanish. El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT will be led by artist Edra Soto and Art Center Exhibitions and Residency Manager, Mariela Acuna.
El Desiño: On LatinX Design in Public Space at Chicago Cultural Center
Saturday, June 3, 12-2 p.m., free
In partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Edra Soto, Chicago Architecture Biennial artists-in-residence, and leaders of Human Scale–a nonprofit dedicated to creating meaningful public spaces in disinvested Chicago neighborhoods, will have a discussion on designing community spaces through the lens of identity, drawing inspiration from LatinX culture and design practices.
BOMBA! at Center Days
Saturday, July 22, 3- 3:45 p.m., free
Las Bompleneras, a six-piece all-female ensemble, performs a free outdoor live concert, showcasing traditional and original Afro-Puertorican Bomba and Plena music through songs, percussion, and dance.