“One time I painted a mural with friends in Harlem and the character we painted was light skinned, I remember being forced to change the color to a darker skin and finding it very strange that color was such a big issue, because I was in Harlem, at that point I felt the racism, and at that time I guess it was the reality of living in America.”
Born and raised in New York’s Harlem neighbourhood, JonOne moved to Paris in 1987 following an invitation from fellow artist and close friend Bando, where he continues to live and work.
JonOne made his first steps into the graffiti world at the age of 17 with his childhood friend White Man tagging his name Jon with the numbers 156 on walls and trains in his neighborhood. In 1984 he founded the graffiti group 156 All Starz in New York. Leaving his mark on the New York subway trains, JonOne soon made a name for himself though his unique style, creating abstract works influenced by movement, color and the energy of the city. His style set him apart from others as, at that time, the majority of other graffiti writers were working in more figurative styles.
According to him graffiti “is freedom of expression, it’s a democratic art form, and a sign of a healthy environment, as more and more people begin to live in cities, they need ways to express themselves, graffiti allows this in the urban landscape.”
In 1985, the Rick Librizzi Gallery, New York exhibited JonOne’s work for the first time. Following his move to Paris, he was introduced to Cornette de Saint Cyr in 1990 and, as a result, was invited to work at the legendary “Hôpital Ephémère” –a squat in Hôpital Bretonneau. There, he met, and became close friends with other artists such as Sharp, Ash, Jayone, Skki, and A-One, establishing a name for himself in Parisian artistic circles through his canvas work and exhibitions held, including one at Gallery 45 Gleditsch in Berlin, and the exhibition Graffiti Paris, at rue Chapon in Paris. Since then, JonOne has exhibited his works in a wide range of solo and group exhibitions around the world.
The artist himself sees his art as “abstract expressionist graffiti”: “My art is explosive, it expresses the reality of my world in an abstract way, its freestyle, the composition of color, form, energy, and harmony. My work has a long history and it’s always evolving, never staying the same.”
Click for more information on the Language of the Wall: Graffiti / Street Art exhibition.