Current Press & Events
March 31, 2016
March 28, 2016
The Oakland University Art Gallery has a new tenant. His name is Carlos Rolón/Dzine.
The Chicago-based artist has spoken to OU art students in the past, and now brings “Commonwealth” to the art gallery inside Wilson Hall.
The exhibition features a variety of media, including a wall design installation painted with stencils, sculptures, a reimagined barber shop and more.
“He is different, because he covers a range of areas,” says Dick Goody, curator of the gallery and associate professor of art at the university.
Rolón is a first-generation immigrant of Puerto Rican descent. His interest in art started at a young age.
“My first introduction into the art world was the passing of a poster every day in elementary school of Gustave Caillebotte’s ‘Paris Street: Rainy Day,’” Rolón says in an email exchange.
Rolón, also known as Dzine, attended Columbia College in Chicago with a concentration in painting and drawing. His work showcases how the macho can be fragile and how the elaborate can be basic.
His creations comprise on-site installation art, large-scale paintings and sculptures using various materials. There are three sculptures in the exhibition that are inspired by decorative liquor bottles and vases his parents collected.
“I feel the message is in the medium,” Rolón says. “Thus, even though my studio is multifaceted, creatively all of my work seamlessly and cohesively work together to express a common theme and show a common lineage.”
Although his list of media is long, his list of inspirations is longer.
“Influences for my works stem from my childhood and items that were of the norm growing up to my travels, introductions to different cultures, and the diaspora of my cultural heritage,” Rolón says.
“Also, I’m inspired by the common, everyday objects or items that people pass by every day, but refuse to see the beauty in.”
One of the focal points of the exhibition is a room constructed and designed to resemble a barber shop from the 1970s. There is a TV on three of the walls with synchronized videos playing segments of professional barbers at work — an homage to the culture he grew up in.
Some students were lucky enough to get haircuts from barbers hired by Rolón when the exhibition first opened in January.
“He made them part of the art,” Goody says.
In another room, one can see an actual merchant cart from the streets of Chicago, featuring tourist items representing the culture, such as T-shirts, necklaces, and even yo-yos — another tribute to Rolón’s upbringing.
“He has earned his success,” Goody says when talking about things setting Rolón apart from other artists.
Rolón enjoys speaking to young artists. During one of his visits to OU, Rolón asked the students what they believe it takes to be successful. He has some advice to give.
“Never be afraid to ask,” Rolón says. “Work hard, and take your craft serious, but don’t take yourself too serious.”
“Share when you can and allow the Universe to work as it should.
By Zach Micklea
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February 14, 2016
Carlos Rolon/Dzine, Commonwealth at Oakland University Art Gallery
Commonwealth by Chicago based artist Carlos Rolon/Dzine features several installations by the artist in three relatively large galleries on the remote University campus. Commonwealth is purely autobiographical, including objects and materials inspired by the artists’ Latino-American cultural heritage and upbringing in inner-city Chicago. The exhibition provides common signifiers of urban ecosystems that may be quite nostalgic for many people of color living in urban American cities. For instance, Nomadic Habitat (Hustleman) (2016), features a wooden vendor cart that would most likely be found on a busy urban-American street corner. The mobile cart has a variety of items intended for sale; a t-shirt that reads “Team Cookie,” (an ode to the popular character from the hit television show Empire); a vintage prince vinyl LP; and bootleg Gucci belts and Michael Kors purses. The cart represents a particular subculture, an ecology of commerce that permeates many urban communities of color.
What’s a bit un-common in Commonwealth is the choice of wall color and wallpaper design throughout the galleries. In one of the three galleries the walls are lined with a baroque like pattern featuring gold symmetrical symbols on a turquoise wall. The pairing of this wallpaper with installation work is distracting. We also see this distraction paired with (Hustleman) and in the anchor installation of the show, Barbershop (2016).
Barbershop is a site specific installation inspired by Jack Delano’s Barbershop in Bayamon, 1941. However, rather than reducing the homage to solely photography, the artist recreates an actual barbershop, and reimagines the shop as an art studio or therapist office where barbers are often seen as artists/sculptors, while simultaneously providing a safe space for clients to express themselves. During the opening night of Commonwealth, Rolon/Dzine invited two Chicago-based barbers from Bladez of Glory Barbershop of Chicago to create six hair-cuts on site in the form of a performance piece.
The replica includes a platform situated in the middle of the make-shift barbershop that has black and white balanced tiles and a vintage green leather Koken chair. Surrounding the platform and barber chair, there are three video installations mounted on a rectangle wall paper design with the same sophisticated symmetrical symbols installed in the other gallery on dark wooden wall planks. The video installations feature several clients getting haircuts at Bladez. The clients speak freely about life, providing a range personal testimonies. The testimonies provide a deeper level of authenticity in the exhibition. With the surrounding waiting chairs, images of a fair skinned Jesus, and gaudy mirrors, it feels eerily similar to a typical barbershop experience in an urban American city. Although this barbershop is based in Chicago and the inception behind the project is also influenced by the midwestern city, I am reminded of popular barber shops in Detroit and the similar nuances.
Most notably, the Social Club Grooming Company in Midtown Detroit comes to mind. Social Club founder, Sebastian Jackson, has maximized on the unique social atmosphere barbershops have a tendency to produce, and he has coined a movement around this experience through a series of “Shop Talks.” The Shop Talks have become popular destination events in metro Detroit where Sebastian interviews tastemakers and successful creative entrepreneurs as they receive haircuts in Koken chairs amidst a large audience. The Social Club Shop Talks are essentially panel discussions coupled with the comfortable atmosphere and elements of a barbershop. While the two efforts of Jackson and Rolon/Dzine are different in medium, the mission is ultimately the same; highlighting and capturing the intimate cathartic experience of a grooming space. As I walked out of the gallery at Oakland University, one of the barbers in the video, featured in Rolon/Dzine’s barbershop installation said “sometimes, I’m more of a therapist than a barber,” as he smiled proudly on the screen, continuing to cut his clients’ hair.
Commonwealth is on view at Oakland University Art Gallery until April 3, 2016.
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February 1, 2016
Oakland University Art Gallery invites the audience to an installation that includes objects and performance.
The installation work by Carlos Rolón/Dzine at the Oakland University Art Gallery is called Commonwealth and was created by this first generation Puerto Rican artist from Chicago.
Its title makes reference to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a self-governing unit voluntarily grouped with the United States even though it remains an independent country. A post-colonial perspective melds Rolón’s memories of his youthful Hispanic cultural that includes a diverse hybrid of carefully crafted objects, installation, and performance that inform his work.
One entire gallery space is devoted to the re-creation of a 1940’s urban Barbershop that includes wall paneling, flooring, barber’s chairs and four surrounding video panels that display the hair cutting process. Rolón says “My intention is to introduce the Barber as artist/sculptor and how the barbershop creates a home and safe-haven to allow for freedom of expression.” The site-specific installation is inspired by a photograph by Jack Delano, Barbershop in Bayamon 1941, and on the opening night, two barbers were on site to provide haircuts to attendees. My interest was piqued because of my relationship with the Puerto Rican culture after having been immersed via my marriage for forty years. The food, music, religion and way of life have been part of my life since the early 1970’s.
The porcelain vase/pitcher was designed by Rolón but produced in China and replicates some of the faux objects his mother collected when he was a child. For a family steeped in religious traditions, these type of porcelain objects represented high cultural art based on objects that you might think belong to an aristocracy, as do silk flower arrangements and clocks imbedded in ceramic frames. Adding these types of objects to the exhibition recreates markers or icons within Hispanic cultural traditions. Typically, these pieces were on display in ornate wooden display cabinets along with wedding favors and family photographs, all part and parcel of the culture.
Included in the exhibition is a large and carefully crafted ‘pop art’ object, the Afro hair pic that includes a clenched fist as part of the handle, both symbols during the 1970s in urban cities. The cultural object here is used to shape hair and represent the Black Power Movement, prominent in the struggle against the establishment and a promotion of self-determination. This is yet one more part of Rolón’s installation, creating an environment that paints a picture of his early personal and cultural memories.
In cities like New York or Chicago, there was a time when the vendor cart was commonplace. These carts represented all kinds of ethnic food, from hot dogs, pretzels, bagels, and blintzes to the Hispanic cart that sold tostones, empanadas, fritas and pasteles. The nomadic vending carts were located in neighborhoods where people sought a bite on the go. In his piece, Nomadic Habitat, Carlos Rolón/Dzine intentionally uses the memory of the cart to recreate a replica as a symbol of his cultural. First on exhibit in “The Potential of Spaces: The Arts Incubator helps bring the Chicago Architectural Biennial to the South Side” from the Chicago Art Institute, the piece articulates the relationship of culture to the community.
For me, writing about installation and performance art feels a little like a rubber band, causing this writer to stretch his experience to include new and emerging forms of artistic expression. Certainly there is a tradition in installation that includes British Artists Andy Moss, and Jamie Wardley, who created The Fallen, a visual display at D-Day landing on the beach of Arromanches in France, and Rain Room, by Berlin-based collective Random International where at Rice University you experience the rain without getting wet. Most recently at Art Prize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation Intersections, casts a delicate web of shadows by filling a room with carefully crafted patterns from a laser cut wooden cube powered by a single light source. The result was a room illuminated with lace-like geometries cast onto the surrounding walls, and like Carlos Rolón/Dzine, she says, “For me the familiarity of space visited at the Alhambra Palace, created memories of another time and place from my past.” Both artists used memory and culture to form their biographical oeuvre.
Perhaps this brings me to the role of the Oakland University Art Gallery in exposing its audience of students, faculty and community to new trends in all forms of art, free from commercial purpose. The Oakland University Art Gallery has been leading in this respect for a number of years and continues to set the bar for others. University based galleries have the financial base to support such important endeavors and play an important role in educating the community in Metro Detroit.
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January 26, 2016
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