Gallery 400 Blog


Edra Soto Interview with "Traduttore, Traditore" Curators Karen Greenwalt and Katja Rivera

Edra Soto’s name is sweeping Chicago this February between her project Open 24 Hours activating The Commons at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the curation of Under the Influence  opening February 22 at the Ralph Arnold Gallery at Loyola University. In anticipation of Soto’s artist talk, part of the Voices Lecture Series this Tuesday, February 20, we look back to her interview with curators Karen Greenwalt and Katja Rivera featured in the catalogue for Traduttore, Traditore exhibited at Gallery 400 in the winter of 2017. 


How do you understand the concept of translation?

Translation puts things in perspective; it helps us understand our place in the world. Translation also gives us the opportunity to adapt and test our empathy toward others. Through translation we can decipher others’ thoughts and ideas. Translation can also be seen as transformation, transaction, or convergence. I have used the term “translation” to refer to art making plenty of times, trying to explain process.

Traduttore, Traditore, 2017 (installation view)
Right: Edra Soto, Tropicalamerican, 2014, three inkjet prints on paper, each 67 x 43 x 1.5 in.

What was the impetus for making Tropicalamerican and Manual GRAFT, and what do you hope viewers take away from these works?

At the time Tropicalamerican manifested, I was doing a residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This place immediately pointed my toward Rauschenberg’s legacy and his sense of patriotism. My mind was already congested with news related to Puerto Rico’s status, financial situation, and relationship with the US. While at the residency, which is located on beautiful Captiva Island, Florida, I was able to appreciate tropical plants through the Captiva light. It was a splendid summer and the leaves were extremely vibrant. It was then that it occurred to me to use tropical leaves to create collages. I never had the confidence or even the interest to create patriotic art. My argument came from a personal place, the only place I respect when it comes to art making. It was meaningful. Tropicalamerican became a bridge between my personal experience as a Puerto Rican and a legacy of a patriotic art that artists have subscribed to for centuries.

Similarly, GRAFT has become a bridge between my two homelands. Puerto Rico and the US are the two places I have lived in for almost the same amount of time. GRAFT aims to discuss postcolonialism through architectural interventions using decorative elements of domestic vernacular architecture from Puerto Rico.

Traduttore, Traditore, 2017 (installation view)
Edra Soto, Manual GRAFT, 2016, metallic adhesive, dimensions variable

Why did you choose to work in silk (originally) and as an architectural intervention?
Do you see a relationship between the content of your work and your choice of media?

Yes. I think material carries content and it is important to me to create a compatible connection between the subject and the material. When people ask me about my use of material in my work, I reply that there’s not a specific type of material that I fully commit to, because that would be limiting.

To what extent do you hope your work speaks to current social and/or political issues?

I care about participating in current conversations and issues pertinent to what’s happening in our world. I usually begin from a personal place. Art allows me to take a subject and turn it into a global conversation. I can have the feelings of an activist at times, but it clear to me that first and foremost I am an artist and that’s how I speak to the world.

Traduttore, Traditore, 2017 (installation view)
Edra Soto, Manual GRAFT, 2016, metallic adhesive, dimensions variable.

More information about Soto’s lecture can be found here.

To purchase a copy of the Traduttore, Traditore catalogue for $25 please email, or stop in to Gallery 400 Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm or Saturday 12-6pm.