Born 1970, Chicago, IL, Rolón attended Columbia College Chicago with a concentration in painting and drawing. The artist 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. Drawn from a variety of experiences and places, the work often melds 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. This approach questions not only cultural identity, but also its place within the confines of the institution. By synthesizing and fusing genres from a multitude of extant cultural sources, the works ultimately produce a language of social practice, painting and sculpture inviting the viewer to engage in discourse and discussion. Rolón operates as his own protagonist and is the author and conductor of these various trajectories that results in art objects and environments that allow us to enter (and be welcomed) into his world. The emotional and intellectual substrate in his artistic practice is his personal history, which he makes universal through his work, and which is anything but ambiguous. Because of this, the work and its language can be understood on a global sphere.
As noted by the artist Theaster Gates (who co-funded the social sculptural work Nomadic Habitat). “Carlos brings us to attention and focus - a lightning rod to the true art in this cruel world. Channeling ordinary materials into intricate constructions, he seeks hope and abundance in overlooked cultures, in the carts, the nail salons, in the everyday hustle.”
Rolón has had solo exhibitions at Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; The Dallas Contemporary, Dallas; Museo de Arte de Ponce & Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico; and 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: University of Alabama at Birmingham; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Bronx Museum, New York; City of Chicago Public Art Collection; Daegu Art Museum, Daegu; 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.
In 2011 Rolón was the Kraus visiting Professor of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.