Art Basel Q-File: Kenneth Pietrobono (Artist)

 What makes You Tick?

I am a first generation American so I have always had a distinct feeling that the landscape around me is not fully my own. That disconnect, or gap between the world that surrounds us and how accurately it acknowledges reality has always been something that interests me and something that I try to address with my work.

 Why Roses?

While my larger interest is simply in renaming and refocusing landscapes of any kind, the National Rose Garden emerged because of the role the rose has as our national flower. The thinking is that if this plant is to function as a symbol of our values and culture, then it should actually acknowledge that culture as it is experienced – Corporate Growth, Uncertainty, Citizens United – these are all aspects of our environment and the sooner we name them and accept them as part of the landscape, the sooner we can begin to understand our relationship to them and perhaps have a meaningful discussion whether or not it is something we want to continue cultivating.

Where do you get them from?

The roses are acquired from nurseries in the areas the garden appears. My goal is to work with existing gardens or perhaps create a system to establish permanent gardens – something I am working on with The Tropical Rose Society of Greater Miami.

How do you arrive at what political statement you are going to make with your art?

This is a difficult question. I try to leave myself out of my work as much as possible, but I always use my own experiences first and foremost. From there, I research textbooks, essays and articles to find current issues and language that names something that may need further thought. I try to resist making direct statements. I think that is a problem with politically engaged work. If it is too direct, it loses audience or is preaching to the converted. I simply try to draw attention to aspects of our environment that should be reconsidered. From there people are invited to provide the statements.

What do you think your work says to the average person?

 I think the work reminds people that we have a say in shaping our environment. We are all part of this massive system that may feel like it drives itself – but only if we let it. “Wage Labor” and “Consumer Culture” are not a part of the natural order. This is not the way people have organized themselves since the dawn of time. This system has evolved and grown and shifted and we all play a part in that, even when it feels like we don’t.

How does it feel to be back in Miami as the artist chosen to do the entrance installation for SCOPE Miami Art Fair?

It feels fantastic. I am hugely thankful to the SCOPE Prize at the DUMBO Arts Festival. My family and friends have been so supportive and I am honored and excited to bring my work to my hometown. I hope this is the first opportunity of many.

What captivates you right now?

Right now I am very intrigued by the economic system and how it functions. Our primary relationships to the larger environment are shaped by money, how we access it and the price we pay to do so. There is so much emotion and morality tied into the system at the user level that we rarely acknowledge. A bank can run itself into the ground and be saved, yet a homeowner, student or union worker are morally obligated to suffer through foreclosures, exponential debt or loss of earned benefits. I don’t want to say that moral obligations should be abolished, but the top is playing by different rules and my hope is to simply illustrate that.

Pietrobono exhibits ‘Selections From The National Rose Garden’ at the entrance of the SCOPE Miami Art Fair, 110 N.E. 36 St. at Midtown Blvd; Miami. December 4-9.  Visitors entering the 100,000 sq. ft. Scope Miami Art Fair pavilion will be greeted by a temporary garden of over 60 rose bushes with names reflecting the American landscape and the dynamics that shape it. To see more of Pietrobono’s work go here.


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