Chicago-based artist, educator, and curator Edra Soto will deliver a free public lecture at University Galleries at 12 p.m. Tuesday, March 21. Presented in conjunction with Manual GRAFT, Soto’s current exhibition, this talk is co-sponsored by the Harold K. Sage Foundation and the Illinois State University Foundation Fund.
Soto says that she “aims to challenge the boundaries between audience, artist, and the work itself to amplify the democratic potential that art has to offer.” She uses both traditional and unconventional materials—including plastic chairs upholstered with beach towels or pineapple upside-down cake—to create sculptures, installations, and architectural interventions that foster accessibility and encourage public participation. Soto, who often incorporates the visual culture of her native Puerto Rico, identifies issues of “class, race, cultural origins, hierarchies, and myth” as integral to her work.
The works on view in Soto’s exhibition evidence both the artistic process and the labor of the artworks’ making. During the opening reception on February 21, Soto partnered with Illinois State University students to make a new version of her 2016 Manual GRAFT performance. The artist and her collaborators used metallic adhesive to create a geometric design in the windows of the east gallery based on the iron rejas (screens) she cites as ever-present in the architecture of Post-war Puerto Rico. They also created clay seashells and attached them to a domino table and chairs as a nod to both shell-encrusted Caribbean souvenirs and domino tables dotting the public plazas in Puerto Rico.
Soto’s work has been exhibited in Chicago; New York City; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has been awarded prestigious artist residencies at Project Row Houses, Houston; Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California; and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, Florida. She has received grants and fellowships from Efroymson Family Fund and 3Arts. She is the co-director of The Franklin, an outdoor exhibition space in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood. Soto received her Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and Beta-Local in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Her project at University Galleries is organized by Senior Curator Kendra Paitz.