Kevin Quiles Bonilla: A small patch of sand, at Baxter St / Camera Club of New York

Kevin Quilies Bonilla, Carryover (Blue tarp in Governors Island), 2023, 
Chromogenic print, Courtesy of the artist.

Baxter St is proud to present A small patch of sand, yet it holds so much, a solo exhibition by Puerto Rican artist Kevin Quiles Bonilla, on view from June 20-July 31, 2024. Curated by Ezra Benus, Baxter St’s 2023 Guest Curatorial Initiative Recipient, the presentation explores themes of colonialism and diaspora.

The exhibition will feature photographic installations that invite audiences to consider the role of colonialism in perpetuating states of debility and disablement through cultural extraction, exploitation, and geopolitical instability. As a Puerto Rican artist living between the island and New York, Quiles Bonilla’s works focus specifically on the Puerto Rican diaspora, the long history of colonization, which dates back over 500 years, and the island’s current realities as a U.S. colony. Archival family photographs and materials such as sand, blue FEMA tarps, and beach towels printed with images of life after hurricane disasters, are incorporated into the works and juxtaposed with imagery and rhetoric associated with tourism.

Kevin Quilies Bonilla, islotes (into this cocoon I crept; 3rd grade school photo), 2024, Sand on chromogenic print, Photo by Gabriel García Román.

In Carryover (Blue tarp series), the artist is pictured donning a blue tarp, engaging with various spaces throughout Puerto Rico and New York. The blue tarp is one of many that FEMA provided to people with damaged homes following the passing of Hurricane María in 2017, and many are still in use today, emblematic of the post-hurricane relief that never materialized. In the installation While you dried in the sand, custom beach towels are layered with imagery of the island’s landscape in the aftermath of the hurricane, using a design inspired by the souvenir towels and other products made specifically for tourists visiting the island. Appropriating this language, Kevin references catalyst moments in the island’s recent history. In the newest series islotes (Spanish for “small islands”), small delicate photographs are piled up with sand to cover the figures, including multi-generations of Kevin and his family, creating small interconnected islands within each photograph. The imagery points to the formation of islands as a result of natural or political forces. Sand, as a natural material found in a politically charged site, becomes a record of time; it is also a surface, a container, and a layer of obfuscation.

Throughout the works on view, the forces of colonialism are exposed for their role in creating a Puerto Rican diaspora, and a sense of otherness that manifests literally, materially, politically, and metaphorically. Colonial power is imposed to actualize a relationship of dependence and disablement. By re-interpreting and re-contextualizing the objects and iconography associated with Hurricane María and the tourism industry, Quiles Bonilla’s works point to the ongoing debilitating effects of colonial presence and neglect.

Baxter St’s Guest-Curated Program is made possible by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation. This project is made possible in part with funds from Creative Engagement, a regrant program by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) in partnership with the City Council, and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC).

Kevin Quilies Bonilla, While you dried in the sand (it came from nowhere), 2021, 
Custom print on beach towel, Courtesy of the artist.


Kevin Quiles Bonilla (b. 1992) is an interdisciplinary artist born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through photography, performance and installation, his works explore ideas around power, colonialism, and history with his identity as context. He received a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Puerto Rico (2015) and an MFA in Fine Arts from Parsons The New School for Design (2018). He has presented his work at Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum, Lincoln Center and Ford Foundation. Recent solo shows include Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT (2021), and Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY (2022). His first public artwork, For centuries, and still…(anticipated completion), made in collaboration with artist Zaq Landsberg, was presented through NYC Parks in 2022. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Arts + Disability Residency (2018-2019), LMCC Workspace Residency (2019-2020), En Foco Inc. Photography Fellowship (2021), EmergeNYC (2021), Smack Mellon Artist Studio Program (2022-2023), Monira Foundation Residency (2024), and LMCC Arts Center Residency in Governors Island (2024 Forthcoming). His work has been featured in Hyperallergic, The Washington Post, BOMB Magazine and The Guardian. He lives and works between New York and Puerto Rico.