Gild the Lily

Carlos Rolón

Gild the Lily (Caribbean Hybrid I, II, III), 2019

vinyl, adhesive

516 x 540 x 504 inches

Commissioned by Sculpture Milwaukee

Carlos Rolón is known for his socially-active practice that engages audiences in bright, expressive, multi layered installations, paintings and sculpture that use gold leaf, mirrored glass, tile and iron. In addition to more traditional art forms however, he has also created playful nail designs in boutiques staged in galleries and at art fairs, decorated cars like the Latino Kustom Kulture tradition of the American south west, and most recently, decorated a basketball pink with bright green palm fronds as a fund raiser for re building basketball courts in Puerto Rico. Rolón's expressive works reach into pop culture, daily life and challenge the spare tradition of post-war Minimalism and Conceptual art.

Rolón is explicit about his own cultural in-betweenness. He is first generation Puerto Rican-American, and uses natural forms and social traditions as a way to explore overlapping political and cultural histories. He references the vernacular architecture and design of Puerto Rico, pointing to the island's history of immigration, colonization, sugarcane production, industrialization and tourism. In recent projects in Puerto Rico and New Orleans, Rolón used the decorative iron fences brought to Puerto Rico and the American south by African slaves, and the tiles, macramé and mirrors of tourist hotels and impoverished Caribbean home to explore common human desire for beautiful spaces. Just as all landscapes hold their histories within them, Rolón embeds history through his use of luxe and common materials.

For Sculpture Milwaukee, Rolón will sheath the outside of the lobby cube of the Chase Bank building with a translucent diorama of tropical flowers, making the "bird cage" lobby the largest sculpture in the region.

The choice of the Chase Bank lobby is specific. The modernist cube is emblematic of the urban renewal and revitalization schemes that took place across the country in the post-war period. The International style of architecture, redolent of the idealism of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, reminds us how post war America salvaged the style as a marker of our own global power. As a resident of Chicago, Rolón grew up with the dreams and problems of urban life.

By turning the transparent lobby into a glowing jewel box Rolón's installation will be like a flame that attracts us to a key city intersection, where east meets west, north meets south, and where water meets street. Rolón's unexpected cube will connect to the summer sky, the blue water of the Milwaukee river and concrete that flows beneath and through the lobby space. Rolón's luminous beacon signals the reinvigorated vibrancy of our downtown.


Rolón was born in 1970 in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents. He graduated from Columbia College, Chicago, in 1989. One person exhibitions have been held at: the New Orleans Museum of Art; Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; Chicago Cultural Center, Peal Lam Gallery, Singapore; Rockford Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Galerie Henrik Springmann, Cologne; Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York; The Dallas Contemporary; Salon 94, New York; the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; Deitch Projects, New York; Emily Murphy Contemporary, Madrid; Contemporary Arts Society, Rome, the Museum Het Domein, Sittard, The Netherlands; The Bathhouse/Shiraishi Contemporary, Chicago; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, among others.

He has been awarded Artist-in-Residence grants at the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New Orleans; the instituto Bueno Bisa, Curacao Center for Contemporary Art, The Netherlands; the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom; and the National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya. His work is included in the collections of the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; the Brooklyn Museum and Museum del Barrio, New York; the City of Chicago; Collection Vanmoerkerke, Oostende, Belgium, the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan; the Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, Ukraine; the Yuz Art Foundation, Shanghai; and the Daegu Museum, South Korea, among others.

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