Grafting Puerto Rican Architecture onto the Lower East Side, Allison Meier, Hyperallergic
New York, NY– 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.
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: Foundation for Contemporary Arts, 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