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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/03/2006 Archived Entry: "Book review: American Dream"

American Dream
by Artemio Rodriguez
La Mano Press

Review by Tom Good

"[ . . . ] the linoleum plate is a black space that is full of possibilities. When I cut into it I am creating; hence, every space I do not cut into is a space that holds the potential for me to do more. Instead of throwing away these possibilities, I go on carving figures that I integrate into a larger composition." - Artemio Rodriguez

As this quote indicates, Artemio Rodriguez often fills his prints with detail, allowing thin lines and smaller figures to support the main composition. The fine lines swirling through space make many of his prints seem to overflow with energy, even when the subject remains static. Unlike the "speed lines" seen in manga, these do not suggest motion, but rather a hypnotic tranquility.

Many of his subjects have religious themes, and Adam and Eve make multiple appearances. In one case they wear modern briefs instead of fig leaves, and Adam sports urban-looking tattoos. Angels, devils, Death, and unusual creatures also inhabit the prints, giving the book an otherworldly quality.

One print in the "Love" section of the book shows a couple having sex. The elegant lines and peaceful facial expressions give the work a spiritual quality, and one can almost imagine it as something suitable for a stained glass window. Yet at the same time, it is also a smutty, coarse, perhaps humorous image. The window behind the couple has no shades or curtains on it; the couple lies atop what may be a low bed or a large coffee table -- in either case there are no sheets; and a small television sits mutely beside them. Is this a married couple in love, or a prostitute and customer? Does the window face a busy sidewalk, or an empty desert? We may see any of those things, or something else entirely. In this case, the ambiguity gives the art an interesting dimension, and forces the viewer to keep reconsidering its meaning.

Though the majority of the book consists of full-page reproductions of Rodriguez's prints, it also contains text in both English and Spanish, presenting background information about the artist and an interview conducted by Salvador Ortiz.

I must mention the cover of the book, on which the front and back cover images is adorned with small transparent winged creatures. I am not sure how this is done, but they look a bit like clear stickers. Because they are transparent, I didn't notice them right away when I picked up the book. Later when I did see them, I was startled, as if they had appeared out of nowhere. It is a fun and creative effect, and gives a hint of the creativity that awaits inside the book.

I enjoyed American Dream, and I can tell it is the sort of art book that I will read through many times. Recommended.

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