Carlos Rolón:

Lost in Paradise

Carlos Rolón (Puerto Rican/American, b. 1970), Losa Criolla, 2018, ceramic tile on aluminum panel, 105 1/2 x 65 in., Courtesy of the artist, Salon 94. and the New Orleans Museum of Art

Saturday, November 3, 2018 to Monday, October 21, 2019

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens welcomes Lost in Paradise, an exhibition by artist Carlos Rolón and curated by Guest Curator Aaron Levi Garvey, to the Museum.The exhibition features sculptures that weave together nature and humankind found in both Florida and Puerto Rico.

The parallel histories of Florida and Puerto Rico have been hand in hand since the first landings of the same Spanish explorer: Juan Ponce de León. De León, on a quest for gold in Puerto Rico and searching for the Fountain of Youth in Florida, had no idea that in a few hundred years his landings would have a direct impact on life as we know it. The Jones Act of 1920, a Merchant Marine Act, entangled Florida and Puerto Rico further, allowing for nearly 90 percent of all goods that move to and from Puerto Rico to be passed through Jacksonville’s port. More recently, the Jones Act has come back into headlines during relief efforts after hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall in Florida and Puerto Rico within a week of each other.

Rolón’s Lost in Paradise exhibition examines regrowth post industrialization and catastrophic events. In the early 20th century and after the Great Depression, both Florida and Puerto Rico saw a rapid spike in industrialization, migrations, and tourism. While there was a rise in these industries, the natural landscape took the brunt of the abuse. The expansions of attractions and high-rise complexes deteriorated the beaches, drained wetlands, and cleared wooded areas, making both the island of Puerto Rico and the Florida peninsula more susceptible to flooding and coastline erosion.

In September 2017 two catastrophic hurricanes (Irma and Maria) made landfall in Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of devastation in their wakes, and linked Jacksonville and Puerto Rico together again in their relief efforts beyond the Jones Act. In Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens sits on the St. Johns River. The Museum was not spared from hurricane Irma’s storm surge, and the Cummer Gardens were left heavily damaged. Within the same week, Puerto Rico was hit head-on by hurricane Maria, leaving the entire island without power, supplies, or infrastructure.

Rolón’s new works draw inspirations from the architecture and natural landscapes that both Florida and Puerto Rico share. In Lost in Paradise, Rolón seeks to bring attention to nature’s unbridled ability to change its own landscape, but also humankind’s ability to overcome catastrophe and rebuild stronger than ever. Rolón’s “losa isleño” (island tile) pieces break from the traditional repetitive decorative design, departing from the typical rug or carpet style layouts to create new sculptural paintings that reference homes in Puerto Rico. Looking to his mirrored mosaic floral works, the artist has created indestructible plant life in an effort to memorialize and create monuments to the native plants of Florida and Puerto Rico.