Edra Soto: Graft brings an interactive poetic meditation on national identity, displacement, and belonging to the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego

A unique opportunity for the San Diego community to build a personal connection to Puerto Rico and Artist-in-Residence Edra Soto. Visitors will interact physically with her work and witness her creative process first hand during Meet the Artist Hours.

SAN DIEGO, CA — (January 23rd, 2023) The Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego (ICA San Diego) is pleased to present Edra Soto: Graft, the third Artist-in-Residence exhibition of the current season, Limitless Growth, Limited World, opening on March 4th, 2023 at ICA San Diego / North in Encinitas. For her first exhibition in San Diego, artist Edra Soto (b. 1971, Puerto Rico; lives and works in Chicago, IL) continues to create the site-specific installations that have defined this project since 2012. Using a range of materials from aluminum and PVC, to concrete and wood, Soto generates a sculptural language to express her experience navigating the Puerto Rican diaspora.

For more than a decade, she has recreated two common and beloved elements of Puerto Rican residential architecture outside of the island: the geometrically-patterned rejas (wrought-iron gates) and quiebrasoles (decorative concrete breeze blocks) that surround many of the island’s homes. This reconstruction of such distinctly Puerto Rican structures in faraway places offers a poetic meditation on national identity, displacement, and belonging.  

In 2018, Soto began to incorporate viewfinders with snapshots of life on the island into the gaps within the Grafts, inviting visitors to peek through the patterned structures. What seems initially to be a voyeuristic gesture, akin to peering through a neighbor’s fence, becomes more abstract as Soto’s images come into focus. Rather than an intimate revelation of the private sphere to a public audience, Soto’s photographs bring everyday images of Puerto Rican life-–from the mundane to the catastrophic—to audiences with otherwise limited access to such information. Through this combination of sculpture and photography, Soto reimagines national and cultural identity at a distance that is both spatial and temporal. 

At ICA San Diego, Soto will reconfigure a series of Graft works, altering colors, surface textures, and the photographic components to create a new installation. Prompted by ICA San Diego’s season-long investigation of consumption in all forms, Soto’s San Diego presentation considers her Grafts as an alternative cultural symbol for Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican identity both on the island and in the tourist trade. In place of the ubiquitous imagery of Spanish castles, fortresses, and watchtowers (garitas)–emblems of colonial power that appear on everything from restaurant menus to airport seat cushions—Soto proposes her Grafts as a new kind of marker for the nation.  

"The interesting component that Edra's work brings to the theme that we are exploring this season is a consideration of how consumption of culture impacts the construction of national identity. Edra is looking at how Puerto Rico's identity is shaped by tourism, with a specific focus on architecture.” says Associate Curator, Guusje Sanders.

In residence March 4 - 19 and April 29 - May 21.

The ICA San Diego/North Campus in Encinitas offers visitors unique access to the creative process through Meet the Artist hours. The Artist-in-Residence program, which invites national and international artists to live and work onsite alongside an exhibition of their work, fosters connection between the visiting artist and the local community.

During Meet the Artist hours, the public is invited to speak with Edra Soto and contribute to an upcoming project. While in residence at the ICA San Diego, Soto will be crafting a fabric and metal flag out of four-pointed aluminum stars. This project, an expanded version of Soto’s 2021 work, Tropicalamerica 21, takes inspiration from the all-black Puerto Rican flag, which has become a symbol of Puerto Rican independence, resistance to colonialism, and civil disobedience since 2016. Soto invites the community to join her in the construction of this flag, and will teach visitors how to make the four-pointed aluminum stars.  

Saturday and Sunday 3:00 pm -5:00 pm
March 4, 5, 11, 12, 19.
April 29, 30.
May 6, 7, 13 ,14, 20 and 21.

Edra Soto, Graft
ICA San Diego / North, March 4 – August 6, 2023
Open Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 12:00 - 5:00 pm // Free to the public.
Images of Edra Soto’s exhibition are available by request.

About the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego
ICA San Diego is a platform for experimental art and learning with a mission to question everything. Founded in 2021, yet built on over 100 years of combined experience, our programming is cutting edge yet accessible; daring and thoughtful; challenging and inviting. Our exhibitions, installations, commissions, classes, and workshops reflect ICA San Diego’s commitment to engage the issues of the moment and provide a space for the community to come together and consider the world in which we live. ICA San Diego welcomes everyone to gather, learn, question, and experience the new. ICA San Diego is always free and open to the public. ICA San Diego / Central is located at 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, and ICA San Diego / North is located at 1550 S. El Camino Real in Encinitas.

Christine Martinez, 858-663-7887
( // @icasandiego