Ruben Aguirre is a Chicago based painter who has transitioned from graffiti writing to abstract painter/muralist. He has produced a number of murals in the Chicago land area, and recently exhibited in "Paint, Paste, Sticker: Chicago Street Art" at the Chicago Cultural Center, and in The National Museum of Mexican Art exhibit, "Outside In: The Mexican-American Street Art Movement in Chicago". He received a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago with a concentration in painting in 2002. Ruben was born in 1979 in Chicago, Illinois.


My work has evolved from the ego-based, quantity driven Graffiti mind set, to public mural work that embraces the communal and contemplative. Being a Graffiti artist mandates incessant exploration of new and different spaces. This motivation will always be an aspect of my work. In my journey to push my work beyond letter based Graffiti, Chicago neighborhoods became my studio space and taught me the ability to use painting to re-contextualize existing structures. The unexpected beauty and intention of murals have the power to change the perception of ignored neighborhoods and spaces. My work is an abstraction of traditional Graffiti letter-forms that create organic shapes and line work that integrate with preexisting lines of buildings or surfaces. While graffiti was all about making myself known as an individual, my current work embraces contemplation on a space’s use, history and people to create visual work that enhances communities.

Whether composed in broad daylight in front of an audience or created on the fly under cover of darkness, making art in the street is performance. Gestures are necessarily sweeping, colors are bold, and personal statements are often intense. Although bounded by the formal confines of the gallery, fine art that is based in the aesthetic of the street ideally retains the sense of the urgency and motion that characterizes its public counterparts. Within each stretched or framed piece lies an echo of the call and response of passersby, of lives lived publicly.

Ruben Aguirre's background as a graffiti artist is evident in works created for the gallery: the palpable energy of his abstract forms is barely contained by the paintings' wood frames. Traces of the fast, fluid performance of graffiti writing linger on the surface of the images, inviting the viewer to envision the process of their creation by imaginatively retracing the artist's steps. Here, the intense communicative power of graffiti remains intact, even as the environment shifts from street to gallery, and the artist's early graffiti text transforms into abstract explorations of line, color, and movement.

Street art is necessary site-specific, and much of its dynamic tension arises from the relationship of image and text to the physical structure of the building of which it is painted. Aguirre's examination of positive and negative space, of the relationship of areas of color to unpainted wood, replicates this tension within a smaller, more limited context. The images simultaneously create - and tug against - their own contexts, in a motionless performance that is anything but static.

Jessica Hunter-Larsen, Curator
IDEA Space at Colorado College

Selected Solo Exhibitions


July 13th, Between the overlap, Aisle 1 Gallery, St. Louis, MO


September 11th- No Such Thing As Separate Events, Anode Gallery, Chicago, IL


February 20th- Recycles, Four White Walls Gallery, Phoenix, AZ

Selected Group Exhibitions


April 9th- Form:Art+Floral Geometric, Room 1520, Chicago, IL

April 18th- Practical Geometry A Mathematical Graffiti Exhibition, Galerie F, Chicago, IL

March 27th- Rhythm Nations: Transnational Hip Hop in the gallery, on the street, and on the stage, IDEA Space at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO


October 19th- Paint, Paste, Sticker: Chicago Street Art, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL

October 18th- Mid Coast, Hot Pop Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

August 9th- Outside In, National Museum of Mexican Art, Torres Gallery, Chicago, IL

August 2nd- Post-Graffiti Abstracts, Primary Gallery, Indianapolis, IN

January 18th- Has Beens and Wannabe's, Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, IL


September 28th- Alphabet Soup, Galerie F, Chicago, IL

September 1st- I can arrange that, Walnut Ink Gallery, Michigan City, IN

July 26th- Red Bull curates, Chicago, Urban Art Society, Chicago, IL

May 11th- Medley, Chicago Urban Art Society, Chicago, IL


September 16th-Uplift, Believe Inn, Chicago, IL

July 9th- Fresh Paint, Cobalt Studio, Chicago, IL

March 9th- Show me your tax bracket, Aisle 1 Gallery, St. Louis, MO

Jan 15th- The 3rd Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip-Hop Arts, Chicago Urban Arts Society, Chicago, IL


Dec 9th- The Daily Show, Chicago Urban Arts Society, Chicago, IL

Oct 2nd- Step Inside, The Beer Run Gallery, Chicago, IL

Feb 13th- Torn Pages, Oh No Doom Gallery, Chicago, IL

Feb 2nd- Street level: A pop up gallery project, c/o Chicago Urban Arts Society & Showpod, Chicago Arts District, Chicago, IL


Sept 11th- Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle Show, 1AM Gallery, San Francisco, California

Feb 13th- Killing the Game, AVS Gallery, Cinncinatti, OH

Feb 13th- 2nd Annual Custom Train Art Group Show, Aokay Official Gallery, Chicago, IL


Dec 5th- Friday Night Live, Cafe Bacci, Chicago, IL

Nov 14th- Calacas, 54B Gallery, Chicago, IL

Aug 1st- Framed, 32nd and Urban Gallery, Chicago, IL

May 2nd- Just Gettin' Started, Hot Pop Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

Feb 22nd-Hello My Name is Chicago, Country Club Chicago, Chicago, IL


August 31st-Subsurface, Pivot Gallery, Indianapolis, IN


September 30th-Meeting of styles, Mexico City, Mexico

September 1st-Subsurface, The Stutz Art Gallery, Indianapolis, IN

January 26th-Uno, 33 Collective Gallery, Chicago, IL


July11th-1st Annual Self portrait exhibition, 33 Collective Gallery, Chicago, IL


October 4th-Jesus Rodriguez/ Chris Silva/ Ruben Aguirre/ Dan Segar group exhibition,
Governors State University, University Park, IL

Mural Commissions


Platform Co-Working, Chicago, IL
Modern Co-Op, Chicago, IL
Young Chicago Authors office/event space mural, Chicago, IL
Simone’s Bar, Chicago, IL


Andersonville Development Corporation, Clark/Farragut parklet mural, Chicago, IL
Ada St. Restaurant, patio mural, Chicago, IL
Private commission, 2037-39 N. St. Louis, Chicago, IL
Good News Only, 1101 Granville mural, Chicago, IL
Gensler, Chicago Artist’s Coalition, 1871 Office space mural, Chicago IL
WBEZ, Winter block Party mural, Chicago, IL
CFS Mortgage, conference room mural, Chicago, IL


Simone’s Bar, Chicago, IL
Victory Gardens Theater, Louder than a bomb, set production, Chicago, IL
Doolittle Elemantary School, main entrance mural

2009 Canadian National Railroad, Memphis, TN

Lectures/Public speaking engagements

2104 Panel discussion: Rhythm Nations: Transnational Hip Hop in the gallery, on the street, and on the stage, IDEA Space at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO

2013 Panel discussion: Street Arts As Public Pedagogy: Learning From The Margins, Evanston Art Center

2011 Panel discussion, Polymetric: The future of street art culture and capitalism, Murphy Hill Gallery


Terry Carlton, Outside In: The Mexican-American Street Art Movement, Gozamos,, August 9th, 2013

Abraham Ritchie, Review: Has Beens & Wannabes/Zhou B Art Center, New City Art,, February 6th, 2013

Mike "Bam" Tyau, Like from Chicago, MTN-World,, May 29th, 2012

FAB Crew, Like One/Interview/Chicago,,February 22nd, 2012

Carrie McGath, Chicago Urban Art Society Pilsen Artist Picks, Chicago Art magazine,, September 26th, 2011

Nicollette Caldwell, On Public Art: Catching up with Likeone, Sixty inches From Center,, August 15th 2011

Kuaze, Top ten things I love and hate about graffitti: Like One, Volume One, Issue 14, May, 2011

Nicollette Caldwell, On Public Art: “Like One”, Sixty inches From Center,,
April 4th, 2011

Nicollette Caldwell, Issues with Urban Art and Capitalism: Polymetric Panel Discussion, Part I
Sixty inches From Center,, Februay 28th, 2011.

Terry Carlton, Live. Laugh. Love. Beer Run Gallery, Gozamos,, October 1st, 2010

B.A. Columbia College Chicago, 2002