Edra Soto
Friday, May 03
Sharp Building
6th Floor Exhibition Cases
United States
Frosted clear and green bottles of various shapes and size, still life photograph
Image Credit: Edra Soto, Open 24 Hours, Cognac collection, 2018, courtesy of the artist

April 9, 2019 - May 3, 2019

OPEN 24 HOURS is a response to the littering of bottles in artist Edra Soto’s neighborhood and how it relates to the historic connection between African Americans and cognac through its genesis in the 1930s to contemporary repercussions instigated by hip-hop and rap culture.

“Cognac’s relationship with African American consumers started later, when black soldiers stationed in southwest France were introduced to it during both world wars. The connection between cognac producers and black consumers was likely bolstered by the arrival of black artists and musicians... France appreciated these distinctive art forms before the U.S. did, continuing a French tradition dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville of understanding aspects of American culture better than Americans did. For African Americans, the elegant cognac of a country that celebrated their culture instead of marginalizing it must have tasted sweet ... During the 1990s, cognac sales were slow, and the industry was battling an image populated by fusty geriatrics. Then references to cognac began surfacing in rap lyrics, a phenomenon that peaked in 2001 with Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy’s hit “Pass the Courvoisier,” causing sales of the brand to jump 30 percent. During the next five years, other rappers teamed up with brands, and increased overall sales of cognac in the U.S. by a similar percentage, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.”

—Reid Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

The above quote connects her observations to a long history of cultural marginalization, exchange, and revival that embraces what could have been erased.

Through this project, Soto’s alcohol glass bottle archives presents archaeological evidence of her surroundings and how the refuse material coincides to a history of affiliation as a sign of democracy and acceptance. The visualization of the vast amounts of refuse also serves as a reflection on the complex role of alcohol in our society.

Edra Soto (b. Puerto Rico) is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist, educator, curator, and co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN. She is invested in providing visual and educational models propelled by empathy and generosity. Her recent projects, which are motivated by civic and social actions, focus on fostering relationships with a wide range of communities. Recent venues presenting Soto’s work include the Chicago Cultural Center (IL), Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (PR), Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (KS), Pérez Art Museum Miami (FL), Hunter East Harlem Gallery (NY), UIC Gallery 400 (IL), Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (NE), and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago (IL) among others.  Soto has attended residency programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (ME), Beta-Local (PR), the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (FL), Headlands Center for the Arts (CA), Art OMI (NY) and Project Row Houses (TX) and Arts/Industry at the Kohler Foundation (WI) amongst others. Recent commissions include a two year exhibition at Millennium Park (IL) and a collaborative project with Dan Sullivan for the Chicago Transit Authority (IL). In 2017 Soto was awarded the Efroymson Contemporary Arts for installation artists. Her co-curation for the exhibition Present Standard at the Chicago Cultural Center was praised with overwhelmingly positive reviews from the Chicago Tribune, Newcity, PBS The Art Assignment and Artforum. Soto has been featured in Newcity’s Art 50 issue Chicago’s Artists’ Artists and at VAM Studio 2017 Influencers. Soto teachers for the University of Illinois in Chicago and is a lecturer for the Contemporary Practices Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from which she received an MFA, and holds a BFA degree from Escuela de Artes Plastics de Puerto Rico. Soto is a Lecturer for the Contemporary Practices Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also teaches an Introduction to Social Engagement course at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The exhibition will be on view April 9, 2019 - May 3, 2019 at the Flaxman Library, 6th floor Sharp.