Born in the Cuban countryside in 1971, Edel Rodríguez lived in El Gabriel until the age of nine when he and his family embarked on a voyage as part of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980 that brought over 125,000 Cubans fleeing Castro’s rule to Southern Florida. A U.S. photojournalist onboard documented their journey and immortalized it in the pages of Time. An interesting fact considering that from 1994 to 2008, Edel was Time’s art director for Canada and Latin America.
From that dramatic start, Edel is still making history. He has forged an award-winning illustration career exploring often hot button topics in politics and popular culture. He grew up in Miami, but turned down a full scholarship in Miami to give New York a go, where he received a B.F.A. in painting from Pratt Institute in 1994 and an M.F.A. from Hunter College in 1998. He and his wife Jennifer and their two daughters live in a landmark Victorian in idyllic Mt. Tabor, New Jersey, only an hour’s train ride to Penn Station, NYC. The beautifully restored home with its gracious backyard, pool and gazebo graced by a giant poplar tree is as far removed from the Cuba of his childhood as a place could be. Rodriguez operates between his two worlds, bringing insights from his tenure in America and a down to earth practical nature from his years in Cuba. He returned there recently, for the opening of his career retrospective Nature Boy, Edel Rodríguez en La Habana at the Casa de las Américas in Havana. It was the first time he brought his wife and daughters to Cuba, to visit family and the friends that he has stayed in close touch with all these years. He wrote a sensitive and informed editorial (“Reform in Cuba: It’s Not About You”) for the Washington Spectator about the government’s plan to ease the embargo on Cuba.
His bold, dynamic shapes and sensual palette is inspired by the poster tradition of Latin America and his favorite artist, Picasso. He wears his heart on his sleeve with his enigmatic and painfully honest takes on trending topics, most recently on the subject of sexism in Silicon Valley for Newsweek magazine: A cover that drew criticism for its solution, although that argument seems a bit disingenuous considering the topic.
A humble guy, Edel is almost always smiling. And watch out when he hits the dance floor. Like his friend and colleague José Ortega, he is a mean salsa dancer.
Edel’s cover of Che Guevara sporting a Nike logo and Apple headphones in the May/June 2006 issue of Communication Arts has to date been the magazine’s most popular (it accompanied a feature I wrote about him and his work). He had already scored another CA cover for the 2004 Illustration Annual, a rare occurrence.
Rodríguez’s work has regularly appeared in the CA, American Illustration, SPD, and The Society of Illustrators Annuals. He is also the recipient of both a Gold and a Silver Medal for editorial illustration from the Society of Illustrators. He has illustrated two children's books, Mama does the Mambo and Float Like a Butterfly, a story about Cassius Clay. Edel illustrated the Cha-Cha-Cha for the stamp series Let's Dance: Bailemos!, for the United States Postal Service, published in 2005.
He works in a variety of artistic mediums, including on occasion Café Bustelo coffee grounds. From bold theatre posters to book covers, children’s book illustrations, and art exhibitions, Edel brings his cultural insights and experiences to bear on each project for an impressive client list that includes a who’s-who of the publishing world and beyond.