Installation by Edra Soto
Curated by Albert Stabler
On View: April 1 through May 1, 2016
Galley Hours: Tuesday -Sunday, 12-6p
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
Hyperallergic, “Grafting Puerto Rican Architecture onto the Lower East Side”
Born in Puerto Rico and residing for decades in Chicago, artist Edra Soto has found many ways over the years to transplant forms of Boricua domesticity to a mainland context. With her GRAFT project, which has been realized in many Chicago locations, she focuses on elaborate screen-like porch enclosures known as rejas, ubiquitous throughout the island. For the installation at Cuchifritos, there will also be a takeaway newspaper in which various writers reflect on the complex colonial influences that brought rejas into being. The newspaper and the reja installed in the gallery window can be contemplated from seats modeled on San Juan’s bus shelters, another feature of the island’s unique architectural vernacular.
The Caribbean marks the starting point of modern Western incursions into this hemisphere, and is the place where indigenous and African populations toiled under and resisted white force, without significant white support. Yet Puerto Ricans, as incomplete American citizens, can seem to occupy a background place in conversations around immigration, history, and race. At a time when Puerto Rico’s crippling debt has forced difficult conversations about its ambiguous relationship with the U.S., in an election year that sees anti-Latino rhetoric running high, the way in which colonial history can disappear into the woodwork is made literal in Soto’s ornate yet understated installation.
Edra Soto is a Chicago-based artist, educator, curator, and gallery director. She obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000, as well as attending Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Beta-Local in Puerto Rico, and most recently the Robert Rauschenberg Residency Program in Captiva, Florida though a 3Arts Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Some of her latest presentations include: The Elmhurst Art Museum Biennial, The 4th Poly/Graphic Triennial of San Juan and the Caribbean and the co-curation of the exhibition Present Standard, at the Chicago Cultural Center with overwhelmingly positive reviews from the Chicago Tribune, Newcity and Artforum.
With her husband Dan Sullivan, she designed and fabricated THE FRANKLIN, an outdoor project space that they co-direct. This project has been supported by the 3Arts Foundation, Northeastern Illinois University and the Propeller Fund. Soto and Sullivan received a commission from the Chicago Transit Authority, and her GRAFT project will be featured at the Western Avenue stop on the train line to O’Hare Airport. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.
Albert Stabler spent 17 years in Chicago, devoting time to teaching art with young people, writing art criticism, and curating shows and events at independent galleries. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Art Education at the University of Illinois.
Image: Edra Soto, Photo Documentation (Cement Bus Stop, San Juan, Puerto Rico), 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc., a 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This program is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the following for their generous support: Marie and John Zimmermann Fund, Gilbert MacKay Foundation, New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible. For more information, visit artistsallianceinc.org.