Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Artist Transforms Chase Tower

Carlos Rolón turns two-story lobby into biggest artwork in Sculpture Milwaukee's history.

By - May 24th, 2019 11:51 am
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Artist Carlos Rolón poses in front of Gild the Lilly at the Chase Tower. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Artist Carlos Rolón poses in front of Gild the Lilly at the Chase Tower. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The biggest piece in Sculpture Milwaukee’s history is being installed on E. Wisconsin Ave.

Chicago-based artist Carlos Rolón is overseeing the installation of approximately 160 vinyl panels to the exterior of the two-story, glass lobby of the Chase Tower at 111 E. Wisconsin Ave. into a diorama of tropical flowers known as “Gild the Lilly (Caribbean Hybrid I, II, III).”

Rolón, a first-generation Puerto Rican immigrant, has patterned the custom piece after a triptych painting of his that’s currently on display in Japan. He intends the Milwaukee piece as an attractive piece of art, but also as a statement on the diaspora of Puerto Rican and other Carribean immigrants in America.

“It’s very melancholic because the work comes from a place of colonization, but also the celebration of a new culture,” said Rolón in an interview.

He praised Sculpture Milwaukee curator Marilu Knode for her work in not only identifying and sighting all of the pieces in the third annual exhibition, but working with him on the site-specific piece. “We wanted to create something that was visually challenging for us,” said the artist.

Rolón said he drew inspiration for the piece from the “blue collar work aesthetic” that he associates with Milwaukee and Chicago. He recalled as a child walking into homes where he was struck by the often fake tropical plants, plastic-covered couches and carpet runners.

He told Urban Milwaukee his hope is to create a project so ambitious that it resonates with the city.

The piece is actually a scaled down version of his original vision, which included covering the skywalk over the Milwaukee River and installing a large flower sculpture. “You throw everything up in the air. What you catch is reality.”

He hopes the work comes off as organic. “I didn’t want people to see the work as a superficial banner you would see on the side of a bus.”

Come next week you’ll be able to judge for yourself.

Sculpture Milwaukee

Sculpture Milwaukee’s 2019 season, for which a number of pieces are already installed, kicks off on June 7th. The installation will run from E. Mason St. and N. Prospect Ave., around the bend on E. Wisconsin Ave., and then west along Wisconsin to N. 6th St.

For the first time, the event, created by Stephen Marcus, will include a piece of art located off Wisconsin Avenue. Artist Sean Scully‘s “Black Stacked Frames” sculpture will be installed in front of Marcus Corp‘s soon-to-open Saint Kate Hotel at 139 E. Kilbourn Ave. Walking from Wisconsin Avenue to visit the piece, visitors will also be able to see the former Sculpture Milwaukee installation “Mixed Feelings” that is now permanently installed in front of Milwaukee City Hall thanks to an anonymous donor.

All of the works are available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to sustain the annual sculpture exhibition.

A full list of artists and locations is available on the Sculpture Milwaukee website.

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