If You Build It

Taking as his subject the long history of Dominican baseball players in the United States, Freddy Rodríguez reveals the multiple impacts of a sport that has crossed cultural barriers and become a marker of success and integration for Dominicans in America. In paintings that often feature famous Dominican players silhouetted against a colorful, geometrically abstract background, such as Huracán Ramírez (2007), Rodríguez considers the way in which baseball provides a stage for individual accomplishment rooted in a common language of statistical records, as shown in Major League Baseball Royal Family (2005).

With the sport’s integration ushered in by Jackie Robinson’s move to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, a player could at last be judged on performance and not appearance—a theme that runs throughout Rodríguez’s work. Combining the reverential letters of a player’s name (Sosa, Ramírez)—an allusion to the hero-worshiping inherent in the donning of the fan’s replica jersey—with the statistical record of Strike Outs and Home Runs that form the summit of a successful career, Rodríguez paints a portrait of immigrant identity and aspiration; one in which these sporting heroes provide a source of collective pride for all who came to this country seeking a better life.