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Sam Rodriguez amongst his sketches at Miller Fortune’s MACLA event on July 25th in San Jose. Photo: Anna-Alexia Basile.

Sam Rodriguez amongst his sketches at Miller Fortune’s MACLA event on July 25th in San Jose. Photo: Anna-Alexia Basile.

Last Friday brought about tacos, Miller Fortune and 100 sketches artwork from Sam Rodriguez.

Rodríguez, a local San José artist, held a sketch gallery Called “A Night of Fortune” where 100 of his pieces were exhibited at the MACLA Art Space in downtown San José. It was sponsored by Miller Fortune and Complex magazine.

His sketches ranged from portraits infused with famous pop figures, like Kanye West, the cast of the Mario Bros. video games, to straightforward portraits of people. The realism in their faces makes it difficult to assess whether they’re actual people or faces from Sam’s imagination. Either way the eclectic mix of guests at the dark but lively gallery certainly seemed to enjoy the vibes.

One of the first portraits that one came across was of UFW leader Cesar Chavez with the “huelga eagle” mixed into the portrait. These collaborations of faces, images and even texts have not always been Sam’s style, but as I learned, this combination became what his art is.

“I’ve practiced and studied art in other cities, I was originally from San José and I’m born and raised there, after getting a feel for what’s out there I decided to come back here and establish myself as an artist.”   

“Now a lot of the art scene is globalized. You’re able to practice where you’re from but still share with the world through social media.” This aspect of globalization was present in the gallery opening. Not only was the crowd diverse, the sketches themselves, although rooted in Sam’s style, were a melting pot of ideas and cultures.

He came from a graffiti background which then turned into a passion for portraits and lettering. From there Sam moved on to graphic design.  He practiced these different forms of art separately, “just because I thought they needed to be separated.”

What occurred was a synthesis of all his artistic backgrounds into a style which is urban, worldly, and ultimately gave him a unique voice and visual aesthetic.

“The idea that these images are rooted in, I think that the idea is, the reason that I choose portraits is because I’m interested in people and how people came to be. Just being a Latino there’s so much layer and so much mixture.” To Sam when it comes to juxtaposition the Latino culture is one of those that mixes so many traditions, stories and flavors. Whether from the homeland or a Chicano from the Bay, there is a mixture that defines our heritage.

For Sam the deciding factor to become an artist was a trip to Brazil, where he made a few small paintings. One of these, that of a stylized man looking up into the sky, was the catalyst of becoming a full-fledged artist. That was in his opinion his best work, the pivotal moment because it motivated him to go all in.

Now his ambitions are to work on bringing more art to the streets of San José, in particular street installations. He feels that there is a need for the community to enjoy art that is accessible, and not everyone will have the resources to go into a gallery or art show to see art. “Going out [around the world] has helped me appreciate the qualities of the people here. There’s a lot that you can learn from your own backyard.”


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