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First female Puerto Rican to design poster art for the Latin Grammys© Eric Rojas

Sofia Maldonado becomes first female Puerto Rican to design poster art for the Latin Grammys

The renowned visual artist is bringing a vibrant tropical aesthetic to the biggest night in Latinx music

Shirley Gomez
Senior Writer

Puerto Rican artist Sofia Maldonado has been tapped by the Latin Grammy’s to design the art for the 21st Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. She is known for her colorful site-specific works that dismantle the boundaries between studio practice and outdoor painting. Her work weaves together abstract art and reggaeton, and her work also honors the role of women within trap and hip hop culture.

Maldonado, whose work has been shown at the Whitney Biennial and the Museum of Latin American Art, shows her Caribbean roots by using vibrant colors, an aesthetic that meshes seamlessly with the theme for this year’s iconic award show —“Music Makes Us Human.” The 2020 award ceremony will celebrate musical excellence and music’s power to bring communities together across cultures.

Maldonado’s collaboration with the Latin GRAMMY Awards celebrates the fullness of life. It fits three new categories, including Best Reggaeton Trap Song and Best Rap/Hip Hop Song, genres close to the artist’s soul, and art.

First female Puerto Rican to design poster art for the Latin Grammys© Eric Rojas
The renowned visual artist is bringing a vibrant tropical aesthetic to the biggest night in Latinx music.

Her work on the extravagant and glamorous life of women in trap and hip hop culture is currently being celebrated in a retrospective titled Las Chicas de Sofia. The retrospective opened in August of this year in the Sala de Exposiciones del Plata Salvador Rivera in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

In an interview with HOLA! USA, Sofia Maldonado shares her creative process for the poster design, which songs did she played while creating her art, and her reaction when she was selected to do the Latin Grammy‘s artwork.

HOLA! USA: What was the inspiration behind the Latin Grammy‘s artwork?
Sofia Maldonado:
“The inspiration behind the Latin Grammys artwork is a mix of our current times, my home country Puerto Rico, and an air of hope & unity between our Latino communities. A common theme through all of them is the spirit of resilience, and the sense of empowerment we Latinos derive even during difficult circumstances. The colorful and welcoming aesthetic of the poster is inspired by our vivid lifestyle and passion for music, showing how we rely on joy to navigate even the most challenging times. I also use the Yagrumo tree, which is a subtropical plant that is the first to reemerge and grows stronger after a hurricane. Ultimately, I wanted to pay homage to that resilience, with joy and enjoyment as powerful tools to achieve it.”

How was your creative process for the design? “This is the first digital piece an artist does for the Latin GRAMMYs, and while there are elements of the use of technology that come into play, the process for designing it was similar to my process for canvas and mural work. I spent weeks drafting the design, even though the Academy had approved one of my early iterations of it already. For me, it needed to be perfect. Once I had decided on the theme, there was a stage of extensive research, followed by a variety of designs; a lot of digital layering was involved — similar to painting on canvas. I usually allow much spontaneity while creating my abstract work. On the top layer, I developed the solid line work that you can notice in the foliage of the Yagrumo tree and iconic gramophone that symbolizes excellence in music.”

Did you have total freedom while creating the artwork? “One of the things I loved most about collaborating with the GRAMMYs, and actually with many of my clients, is precisely that. They trust my work and give me total freedom. Gabriel Abaroa, the GRAMMYs CEO, asked for something that represented unity, and that brought a positive light into this year’s 21st Latin GRAMMYs celebration. It was a smooth conversation; he emphasized his passion for abstraction and the respect he had for my artwork and allowed me to flow from there. It was a joy.”

Which materials did you use? “For the digital drawing, I use my iPad and computer, as for the canvas acrylic on linen.”

Do you play music while creating your art? If yes, what were you listening to? “Yes! I do!! On occasions, especially when I start my canvas work, I like to listen to Shipibo Ícaros as a way to connect with my creative energy. Beyond that, I love cumbia, reggae, punk, hip hop, mostly reggaeton, especially from Puerto Rico and Spain, such as  Bad Bunny , Jowell & Randy, Pepe & Vizio, Pedro La Droga, and Muevelo Reina, just to name some. So I was very excited about the new categories the GRAMMYs launched celebrating these genres. Inspired by this, I also recently created a new collection of art pieces honoring some of the nominees and their songs. You can see those on my social pages (@sofiamaldo).”

What was your reaction when you were selected to do the Latin Grammy’s artwork? “When I first heard about the collaboration, I was thrilled. My studio manager received an email during those long quarantine days, which we collectively struggled with around the world, and I was very astonished and electrified by the news! This year feels like a new beginning for me and my career, as I know it feels for a lot of us, so I wanted to bring that into the piece--this sense of new beginnings, the opportunities, and possibilities that come amidst moments that may feel like breakdowns.”

When and where are we going to be able to enjoy your design? “You will be able to enjoy the digital artwork on the Latin GRAMMYs website and social media pages. The official Latin GRAMMYs invite carries the design too, as well as the official catalog and posters that will be printed for the night of the event. Also, a painted canvas of the artwork will be part of the prestigious Latin GRAMMYs headquarters’ art collection in Miami.”

Please send a positive message to our community and to our future Latinx artists that look up to you and would like to have this type of opportunity.

“Dream big, and keep creating from the soul.”

First Puerto Rican fine artist to create the Latin Grammy’s design art for The 21st Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards.© Sofia Maldonado
Sofia Maldonado digital art

The Latin Grammy’s will occur on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT).