Leaning against the walls of a studio on Lone Star Boulevard, the oversize paintings that will make up next weekend’s opening exhibit of San Antonio artist AJ Rodriguez’s most recent work invite interpretation. What you see in his bold use of color, smooth textures, and the abstract figures that seem to be in motion on the canvas will be exactly right, every single time.
The same could be said of the artist himself.
“What is most pleasing to me through this venture is seeing what others see in this work,” Rodriguez said. “When you see another’s viewpoint, the impressions they have, the visuals they get, I’m always amazed. And if you see it, that’s great. That’s what I’m trying to inspire in others – developing their own creative lens.”
Growing up in San Antonio, Rodriguez began sketching as far back as he can remember, often on the cardboard packaging from his grandmother’s pantyhose. Though he attended some summer art classes at the McNay Art Museum, art wasn’t his focus.
“This was a passion that was hidden for a long time,” Rodriguez explained. “In high school (at Central Catholic), it was about making sure I passed so I could play sports. In college, it was all about grades.”
What most see in Rodriguez, by day, is a man who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which named him Alumnus of the Year in 2008, and who built a successful career in government relations with jobs at the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the City of San Antonio.
So although he’s currently an executive with a major San Antonio company and a married father of three, like others before him on the local business stage – names like Lionel Sosa, Ricardo Romo, and Omar Rodriguez come to mind – he’s also an artist who invests his time and resources in both pursuits – art and business – with equal devotion.
“I have a passion for both. And I can’t imagine doing one without the other,” Rodriguez said. “Now that I’m doing this, people ask me how I find the time for anything. But people own boats, people go out and play golf, or go to movies. I do art. You find the time.”
Calling himself an emerging artist, Rodriguez is grateful for the support of the San Antonio art community and other more established artists who have critiqued his work, some of which is currently displayed at the Plaza Club and on loan to UTSA.
“It’s a great area to learn your craft and get better, and the Lone Star Arts District is, in many ways, that new place that’s serving as an incubation point for many emerging artists and a point of establishment for many artists to be a mentor for others,” he added.
Rodriguez lives in the King William home once owned by his great grandfather, but leases studio space in the district from renowned local artist Jesus Toro Martinez. The spare space features a few bare walls with drop cloths on the cement floor surrounding a small work bench. It was there on a recent evening he opened his sketchbook to explain the creative process.
Pen and pencil drawings, appearing as rough sketches on restaurant receipts or the odd cocktail napkin from Southwest Airlines, spilled from the book and date back to previous exhibits, one themed South Texas birds and another, the San Antonio River Walk.
“Once I find that theme and I really know that’s what I want to do, it all starts to click into place, the work just flows as a result of finding the right piece of inspiration,” he said. “A lot comes from a central idea, and that is finding the extraordinary out of the ordinary. It’s a constant interest of mine.”
His upcoming show Figuras, which opens Friday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m at the Radius Center, 106 Auditorium Circle, is more minimalistic in style than his previous works. Using two to three colors of metallic acrylic on large canvases – or paper for smaller paintings – the works and the show’s title represent the shape, form, and movements of the human figure. Curated by Joan Grona, the show continues through April 14.
“My goal is to have a collection of work that people say has inspired them to seek out their own creativity in other outlets in different ways,” Rodriguez said. “(I’m) trying to develop a level of consistency in regard to quality and my own style so that it’s recognizable and featured.”