Carlos Rolón is an internationally known artist, whose work reflects his childhood home life and culture. Born in Chicago in 1970, Rolón uses Dzine (pronounced design) or Carlos Rolón/Dzine as his professional name.
Rolón’s parents are from Puerto Rico and, growing up, his house evoked the rich culture found on the island. His work reflects the abundance of color, kitschy tchotchkes and over-the-top furnishings that filled his childhood home, where his mother had a nail salon and he and his father, and father’s friends, watched boxing matches.
Rolón studied painting and drawing at Columbia College in Chicago.
My father, who wanted to be a Salsa musician, ended up a factory worker.” he said, “My mother, who wanted to be a beautician, ended up working at a supermarket. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but there still were dreams deferred.”
Rolón created street art and abstract paintings early on in his career, but was drawn to Kustom Kulture, a uniquely American way of customizing cars, hair, fashion … anything that can be made glitzy and kitsch.
A trip to Europe led to Rolón being offered a solo exhibition in Japan in 2003, which sold out before the opening.
In 2007, Rolón was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in the Ukrainian Pavilion. He customized a speedboat, called Dnipro, with nine TV screens, 22 speakers with lights, 8 amps, a Chevy chrome engine with neon Lighting, original 1963 chrome trim and side mirrors from a Chevy Impala, custom bucket seats, ostrich leather interior, Pioneer CD/DJ equipment with an Alpine touch screen videos, a laser light show and a smoke machine, much to the delight of the crowds in Venice.
Although he works in many media, Rolón’s installations have garnered most attention.
In 2011, he set up two nail art salons in New York, one at the New Museum and one at Salon 94 Gallery, which eventually traveled to the Standard Hotel during the 2012 Art Basel Miami Beach.
The Imperial Nail Salon, complete with manicurist, was based on the nail salon that his mother ran from his childhood home, after she picked him up from kindergarten. “We would have lunch of cottage cheese and tomatoes,” he said, “watch ‘General Hospital,’ and then her friends would come over, all these beautiful women, sitting around gossiping. I loved having them and the sense of community that created.”
The feelings that Rolón are able evoke through his work are universal, even though they are based on his singular life experience, as an artist of Puerto Rican descent raised in Chicago. “I love creating beautiful objects that are excessive, slightly obnoxious, and, in fact, somewhat ridiculous.” he said.
Rolón is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation award for Painting and Sculpture. His work can be found in the collections of the Bass Museum of Art in Miami, the Brooklyn Museum, the City of Chicago Public Art Collection Deagu Art Museum in South Korea, Deag, the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, the Museum Het Domein, Sittard in The Netherlands, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego as well as other public and private collections.
Carlos Rolón/Dzine still lives and works in Chicago.