Marion Sampler US, 1920-1988


"Graphic designer, artist and the man who introduced Frank Gehry to the LA Art scene in the 1960s, he brought an organic sensibility to geometric forms."

- Aaron Payne

Marion Sampler was a groundbreaking graphic designer and artist working in Los Angeles. Born in Alabama in 1920, he eventually graduated from the University of California in 1955.


Sampler joined Victor Gruen & Associates, a major Los Angeles architectural and design firm in 1957 and became head of the graphics department in 1963. He was one of the first African American architectural graphic designers in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

Sampler was known for his usage of geometry and shapes. He practiced painting and design in a similar geometric minimalist fashion. The stained-glass dome in South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court that Sampler designed while at Gruen and Associates illustrates his geometric design aesthetic. His signature painting style featured brightly colored geometric shapes tightly packed into grid-like layouts. Sampler favored triangles and triangular forms, visible in many of his commercial designs as well as in his paintings. Pattern played a central part in Sampler's image making process. He was influenced by Black quilt makers in Southern America, especially referencing their birds of flight form in his triangular patterns.

His paintings, while geometric, are not perfectly painted, often giving them the feeling of a loose textile.


Frank Gehry, the American architect, was a friend and colleague of the artist at Gruen, who credited Sampler with exposing him to the gallery scene in Los Angeles in the 1960s.  Sampler, who died in 1998, has artwork in the permanent collection of the California African American Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.