Samuel Rodriguez’s portraits make for an unsettling effect. Made to look as though they’re fractured, rather than whole, they present subjects who are greater than the sum of their parts, suggesting that there’s more to each person than meets the eye.
Based out of San José, California, Rodriguez’s practice leans on his background in graffiti. Being self-taught through the graffiti scene, he later decided to expand his studies by pursuing a Bachelor in Fine Arts at California College of the Arts and has since blended what he absorbed from both experiences to create his current style.
But in an interview with Highlark Magazine, he traced his passion for art even earlier than that, when he watched cartoons as a child. “I got into visual arts through watching Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, and various cartoons through the 80’s,” recalled Rodriguez. “I also used to stare at all the album covers in my uncle’s record collection. My eventual introduction to graffiti was what really shot up my passion.”
His practice now includes two types of portraiture styles, to which he refers to as Topographical Portraiture and Type Faces. The Topographical Portraits are created by stylizing a portrait with topographical lines and shapes, in a similar manner to those found through images on geographic maps. The Type Faces, on the other hand, incorporate typography and portraiture.
“I have lots of visual information in my own work,” admits Rodriguez, “as many of my contemporaries do, and I think it is important that we try hard to maintain the humanness of the people we portray. Feelings can get buried in eye candy and effects, sometimes. The pieces I have done could only be powerful because there is a real person behind them.”
His work is shown in public art spaces, museums, companies, galleries, and editorial publications, but also on Instagram.