The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. - Marcel Duchamp
For the past 10 years, Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan have worked as collaborators. During her years studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Soto solicited Sullivan’s services as a fabricator. Later on, Sullivan started a career in furniture design and became an expert in the trade. As intellectual collaborators, they share and discuss possible ideas to be materialized in conceptual form. Among their most significant collaborations is THE FRANKLIN, an artist-run project space located in their backyard. Dedicated to multi-disciplinary practices, THE FRANKLIN is a designed project space that is aesthetically specific but versatile enough to meet the needs of exhibiting artists.
During a visit to Puerto Rico, Soto and Sullivan encountered a traditional domino table made of cement in the county plaza of Ponce. The utter simplicity of its form made this piece of cement food for thought. Soto and Sullivan were further influenced by the popular rumor of the 1920’s that Marcel Duchamp stopped his artistic practice in order to dedicate his life to master the art of playing chess. Immersed in ideas of art and design, Soto and Sullivan decided to create a high-end version of this particular cement model.
Their great affinity for the game of dominoes led them to create an immersive installation evocative of a familiar game room that conveys how playing dominoes invites and challenges connections among friends or strangers. The act of playing a game demands physical or mental focus while relinquishing pleasure. However, it is also an act of leisure that Sullivan and Soto can compromise to, equally excited in seek of a thrill.
Among its various meanings, “domino” is a word rooted in power, originating from the Spanish verb to dominate. DominoDomino intends to portray the various power plays embedded in ideas of collaboration; the figurative and administrative meaning of commonwealth; the inevitable variants that multiracial coupling disperses from a cultural inherence of ideals and traditions; the ambiguous nature of work versus leisure time.
The domino table, meticulously crafted by Sullivan and the centerpiece of this installation, was made with jatoba wood and tinted with a dark patina. The graphic detail is made with inlaid corian, inspired by decorative iron screen designs commonly found in Puerto Rico. Decorative iron screens became ubiquitous in the architecture of post-war Puerto Rico due to the security they provided and their ability to allow for cross ventilation. Mid-century Spanish design elements added character. Today, these screens are viewed as much as a protection device as a language that pertains to the island’s visual culture.
One of a limited edition of domino sets, also crafted by Sullivan, is set on top of the domino table for audience members to play. This domino set comes with a set of instructions of Soto and Sullivan’s preferred playing method.
Another integral component of this installation is an edition of prints made by Soto. Tropicalamerican is a limited edition of evocative representations of the American, Puerto Rican, and Chicagoan flags. For this installation, Soto and Sullivan selected the ink-jet print on archival paper version made by Soto during her residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in the summer of 2014. Rigorously crafted, these representations were made using a variety of tropical leaves from Rauschenberg’s Captiva terrain, collaged with simple shapes derived from traditional quilting practices. Once the collages were made, they were photographed and translated into a digital format. Tropicalamerican approaches the patriotic art tradition that for centuries artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and David Hammonds, among others, have followed with the intent of canonizing events, aesthetics, and American culture.