By Bobbi Booker
Book Report II
As an artist, Rah Crawford’s combination of his love of pop imagery coupled with his keen intuitive insight has created a new form that required a new name to describe it. Using his trademarked style, Neoteric Pop-Iconic Clairvoyance, Crawford creates art for the high-speed information and multimedia culture by using inking techniques that date back to the ancients. Crawford, 33, says his work speaks the modern language of this generation in a way that great artists of the past have done for theirs.
“My goal as an artist is to define our modern generation through visual art. That sums up my mission as an artist on this planet. To define our modern generation you’re dealing with everything from technology, politics, pop commercials is what my goal is as an artist. We haven’t had an artist to do that since Andy Warhol. That’s the connection that I share with Warhol is that it was his goal to define the 70s and 80s period through his art. He pretty much captured many of those elements from the pop culture to the sexual tensions of the time to the politics to marketing. It’s been 20 years since we’ve had an artist to come from that angle and here I am 20 years later coming from that angle.”
Crawford is much akin Warhol’s approach in his approach to art and creativity. Like Warhol, Crawford has been an underground magazine publisher and has been involved in the multi-media aspects of music and video. He wants his unique visual approach to lead viewers deeper into the human psyche of life, love and culture. “Art isn’t limited to the gallery walls. I like to call art shows art experiences because people come to them and experience them and they leave with a little something.”
After last season’s “Deus Ex Machina” exhibition, Crawford destroyed several paintings that weren’t purchased and caused a strong reaction in both himself and the observing audience. “A couple of people were crying in the audience and I never experience anything like that in my life. As an artist I’m trying to go there, to that place, and reinvent what visual art is and as an artist, how we touch the public in general versus simply walking into a gallery and looking at paintings on the wall.”
Crawford, a Germantown native, credits his parents as the impetus to his art career. His mother exposed him o he arts at a very young age and his father was an illustrator. “I knew that (art) was my calling since I was very young. I was always drawing, had sketch books, always kept a journal, always painted, ever since I was very young.
Crawford’s fate as an artist was sealed when at age seven he saw his father do a quick sketch of his mother while she was cooking in the kitchen. “I was just blown away. I looked at her and I looked back at the paper and I couldn’t believe that he had captured her right in front of my face on paper. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist.”
After studying for two years at the Arts Institute, Crawford modeled for a few years before turning his attention to his craft fulltime. Over the course of a decade he would go on develop his signature style. “The one thing I knew with my artwork was that it had to be a unique look or style. So unique that when you saw it after a while I didn’t have to put my name on it.
Crawford creates powerful imagery like an ancient craftsman, primarily relying on ink and brush to develop his colorful, yet cryptic, work. Closer inspection of his work reveals coded messages and admonitions, words and phrases intertwined to form complex labyrinths of shape nestled within the figures delicate spaces. His work has inspired local fashion designer Belahshehu to create a men’s fashion collection based on his paintings. In addition to several galleries world-wide, his work also hangs on he walls on some noted celebrities, including Outkast’s Andre 3000, Jill Scott, and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson.
“One of Warhol’s famous quotes is that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” says Crawford. “I’m not looking for fame. My goal is to define our modern generation through my visual art. I believe time will tell. I have a strong work ethic and I believe it’s about putting in the time and doing the work. I’m going be here for a while creating and looking to connect with people in unique and interesting ways.”