Rahmaan Barnes

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, surrounded by urban art and public murals, inspired me to get involved with the subculture of urban graffiti.  A consequent arrest for “vandalism” put me on a mission to legitimize the production of aerosol murals.

This became the main focus of my work: public murals that fuse the graffiti aesthetic with a classical training received from the American Academy of Art.  As co-founder of RK Design, a graphic arts and mural company, I have produced over 200 murals, multiple CD covers, book illustrations and logo designs. Through the Chicago Public Art Group and Gallery 37, I have instructed children in mural painting techniques and mentored young artists in their craft.

I currently work out of my studio in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago where, in addition to creating oil, acrylic, graphite, pen & ink, pastels, mosaic tile, spray paint and digital media pieces, I am developing an instructional video on large-scale aerosol.

Rahmaan Barnes Artist Statement

Doctors save lives, police fight crime, and the artist dictates what we know as Image, Icon, and Form. I live a lifestyle of observation and creation. I believe that being well informed on the subject of your work and having an organized strategy produces a more intriguing work of art. I believe man has the right to choose his reality.  In my reality, I have chosen my own destiny; time and fate have confirmed that producing art is my positive contribution to society.

The work I produce both symbolizes and creates optimism for life in our industrialized society. It also challenges the over-saturation of mindless sexual and violent images in pop visual culture. I put forth a passionate effort to produce art that has a spiritual, political and urban aesthetic.

My artwork has been executed with computer-based design layouts and constructed with various art mediums, such as spray paint, oil paint, and acrylic. Its subjects include figure studies, human nature and political issues. My goal is to break the preconceived idea of aerosol art, highlighting the difference between aerosol art and graffiti.

The spray can was not originally conceived for producing art, but rather as a household tool. By combining the Chiaroscuro technique and classical and modern influences, I seek to have the spray can recognized as an artistic medium. Further, the nature of the medium being an aerosol can used for industry and aesthetic vandalism is an icon for the fusion of art and technology. As such, it is a form of modern art.

The historic influences of my work are Alphonse Mucha, Caravaggio and Andy Warhol, whose use of color, form and medium have helped me set a personal standard.  Likewise, my contemporary influences, including Mariko Mori, Brat Disney Cook and Zaha Hadid, have challenged me to raise my concepts of modern public art.

The fusion of art and technology continues with the use of the computer with painting. The fusion of these mediums is what separates the work artists are doing today from the work of the masters. Yet the master standard is as important now, as then. The main principle in the correlation of painting and computer is the creation of order with chaos. This is another tool for the artist to push the envelope. We are living in a digital, information age, where technology grows by the day. This has raised the standard in concept, quality and quantity of work produced.  I hope to continue to always challenge the standard, producing original urban contemporary art.