Before language to Hemingway, from the ancient Sumerians to the Greeks to the modern day, there was the sport of boxing. With his exhibit “50 Grand,” Chicago-based artist Carlos Rolón/Dzine presented a dually charged exploration of boxing and domestic culture, inspired by the tactility and performative qualities of boxing, and its relationship to contemporary art at Tube Factory artspace. Though it was the third iteration of the exhibit, it featured a newly commissioned performative installation of live sanctioned Golden Gloves fights, organized by Indy Boxing and Grappling and sponsored by Top Rank Productions. A robe was also commissioned from Rolón for the boxers to wear before the fights. When the ring was not in use, the robe was on display in the ring.
The exhibit was a nod to Ernest Hemmingway’s “Fifty Grand.” Like the short story, the exhibit explored the relationship between courage and professionalism. Rolón continued to mine his childhood memories by inviting the viewer to step into intimate scenes such as his family’s wood-paneled basement, decorated with gold garlands and vintage beer placards, where his father would watch prize fights like Roberto Durán V. Sugar Ray Leonard, also known as the No Más Fight. This fight was an important memory of Rolón’s childhood that offered an opportunity to sit and connect with his father. Rolón monumentalized his blue-collar trophy den as the setting for his exhibition, creating homage not only to boxing culture, but also to Puerto Rican immigration to America.
Within the main gallery was an installation of paintings and sculptural fabric works exuberant with color, texture, patterns, and experiments in surface that create a visual dialogue between the physical charge of boxing, the garments worn by the fighters, and the artist’s own childhood home and upbringing as a first-generation immigrant. A series of custom-made trophies titled “Immigrants/Emigrants” (Symbols and Mementos for the Nuyoricans) occupied the den. The artist states: “For people like my father and mother who came to the U.S for a better life with dreams and aspirations that never quite materialized, but still achieved success in other aspects of their life.”
About Carlos Rolón/Dzine (b. 1970, Chicago, IL)
Rolón attended Columbia College Chicago with a concentration in painting and drawing. Rolón has been recognized for his elaborately crafted paintings, ornate sculptures and works that come out of American, Latino and uniquely based subcultures. His studio practice investigates pop culture, craft, ritual, beauty and its relationship to art history, subculture, appropriation and the institution. As a first-generation immigrant of Puerto Rican decent, the artist creates objects questioning the concept of luxury and craft making to explore questions of identity, integration and aspiration. His work also represents a detailed examination of curiosity and the process of art making and the cultures surrounding this. The work often addresses his biography by melding memory and the imaginary with carefully crafted, hybrid works that are playfully situated between the contradictory worlds of conspicuous consumption and urban artifact. The work is at once melancholic, excessive and exuberant, poised somewhere between celebration and regret. Rolón illuminates how the masculine can become delicate and the how the baroque can be minimal. The artist often channels this approach with site-specific installation work, vivid large-scale paintings and ornate sculptures in various materials expanding on ideas of self-reflection and imagined luxury. The works ultimately produce a hybrid language of social practice, painting and sculpture inviting the viewer to engage in discourse and discussion.
Rolón has had solo exhibitions at The Dallas Contemporary, Dallas; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and CAM Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. His work has also been exhibited in group shows at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Marta Herford Museum, Herford, Germany; Museum Het Domein, Sittard, The Netherlands; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Museo del Barrio, New York and Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno (CAAM), Canary Islands; Oakland University Art Gallery, Michigan and Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico.
In 2007 Rolón represented Ukraine in the 52nd Venice Biennale. He is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation award for Painting and Sculpture. Rolón’s work is included in the following public collections: Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Brooklyn Museum, New York; City of Chicago Public Art Collection; Deagu Art Museum, Deagu; Museo del Barrio, New York; Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico; Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan; Museum Het Domein, Sittard, The Netherlands; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, Ukraine, among others.