Carlos Rolon AKA Dzine, artist, on a wrought iron security fence in Puerto Rico.
GB Tell me why you chose this.
CR I produced a series of new works for my solo exhibition at Walter Otero Contemporary in San Juan based on the wrought iron security fences that are used as source of both protection and beauty on most Puerto Rican homes. The patterns used for these new mirror paintings are derivative from photographs taken during several site visits. Not only is there a contradiction of both invitation and seclusion, but there is also a double entendre as these wrought iron motif windows have been brought over to the US mainland as a source of identity, comfort and home.
GB Is the beauty of this very attached to emotions for you? Is there a sadness there because of the purpose of the fences? Or is it more to do with pride in making what could be very mundane fences into something magnificent?
CR Yes, for sure. All of the above – Sadness, beauty, pride, mundane and magnificent. But this story is also very melancholic. Several of these new works were based on patterns taken directly from homes on Loíza street in a area called Calle Loiza. This area is an integral section of Puerto Rico that dates back to the 18th century, but also has some of the highest crime rate on the island. You have some of the most relevant architecture and prized real estate on the island in this area, which in turn, produces some of the most amazing wrought iron decorative fence work to enhance the architecture, but most importantly, to protect the home. Most of which will never be seen or admired because it is known as a neighborhood with high crime.
GB Any ornate man-made beauty in this day and age is always close to being camp or kitsch. Do you find that the line between beautiful and kitsch is similar in Puerto Rico and America?
CR Sure it can be camp or kitsch. For me this is part of the story that an artist cannot make up – taking the risk of producing in spite of the fear of being called camp or kitsch. I think this idea goes far beyond Puerto Rico and the mainland. This day and age everything crosses multicultural boundaries.
GB Do you find that people appreciate the pure beauty of your work? There is so much real beauty in the way you craft your work.
CR I think people have come to appreciate the craft making that is put into the work. Most importantly, people can see the honesty and back story from where it comes. This is what really makes it beautiful.
GB The faux luxury of fences like these is copied from palaces that were often the product of vast divisions in wealth in corrupt societies. Does it feel ironic to take this aesthetic to the contemporary art world through your mirror paintings?
CR Not at all. My story comes from a different place and time. The work is contemporary, but at the same time, feels very familiar (based on what you just mentioned amongst others). Ironically, I think this is what has made the work successful.
GB Do you find real 18th century Baroque beautiful?
CR Absolutely. But at the same time, anything can become redundant after you’ve seen something similar over and over again. This is why putting a contemporary twist on this language is exciting to me. One of the most beautiful renditions of this period is in full glory as part of the Period Rooms at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the Louis XVI grand salon from eighteenth-century Paris. I only wish I could create otherwordly site specific installations such as these rooms. They’re utterly amazing and detailed. I love that you get lost in the grandeur of it all. Even if its for 30 seconds.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
CR Anything that has a good, honest story.