The Center Program
Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago
The first iteration of Edra Soto’s Graft, a wood screen reminiscent of a wrought iron gate was installed at Terrain, a residential exhibition space in Oak Park. Much like the theatrical device of a scrim, Graft functioned as a wrought iron metal screen where it created a breathable barrier between these two exterior zones.
Wrought iron, an easily malleable steel alloy is a common material that was utilized to make many early structures and bridges especially in 19th Century Chicago. In terms of both structure and aesthetics, the patterns created at this time with this alloy were the result of an important dialogue between the dominant schools of the Beaux Art and the Polytechnique, which helped to mold the re-emergent city of Chicago. Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright evolved these geometries within stained glass and screens, by abstracting nature and referencing the horizontality of the landscape. Wright also created screens within the interior space that were often made out of wood borne out of his deep devotion for Japanese design.
In Graft II, Edra Soto continues to reference this visual dialogue of interlocking geometries by infusing them with the flavor that only a rich storyteller can offer. The patterns here are playful and infuse the interior space with her own unique personal style. Born in Puerto Rico, Edra Soto’s patterns are imbedded with a steeped tradition of iron porch screen fences with layered levels of engagement. This screened-in space functions as both a protective element as well as a logical outgrowth of window screening. This ambiguous dialogue becomes new curb appeal for Edra’s Graft (II), which is also evidence of the rich collective nature of Soto’s work as she actively stirs up dialogue within her community. Architecture at its most ideal state is made for the public and works to break boundaries and unify communities.