John Andrew Perello, aka JonOne, is an American painter and legend from the early New-York Street art scene, born in 1963 in New York. He has lived and worked in Paris since the late 1980’s. With Dominican origins, John Perello was born in the district of Harlem in New York in 1963. He entered the world of graffiti at the age of 17 with his childhood friend Man5, Jon began tagging his name followed by 156 (the street on which he grew up) on the walls and trains in his neighborhood. According to him, «The underground is a museum that runs through the city.«

He was a founding member of the collective 156 All Starz in 1984, which brought together passion of painting trains at night, and forgetting their problems. After an invitation from ‘Bando’ and inspired by the street art movement he moved to Paris in 1987. JonOne immediately entered the scene, and began his work as a painter on canvas, he found a working space at the Hopital éphémère, and quickly made a name in artistic circles in Paris. He continues to exhibit around the world: Tokyo, Monaco, Paris, Geneva, New York, Hong Kong and Brussels.

JonOne is an American artist living in Paris since more than twenty years. He is one of the main streetart representatives and precursors, and was noticed at the exhibition Born in the Streets at Fondation Cartier (2009). JonOne is recognized for his acrylic work close to the American abstract painting. In 2011, he had already explored the field of sculpture for his The City Breathes show at Rabouan Moussion gallery. He now presents his first solo show for his oil works from March 22nd to May 24th 2014. When we arrive at the studio, we interrupt JonOne in his kickboxing session. He let us in with his American accent and charming casualness. We go to another place. The windows are opened to mitigate a strong solvent odor. He warns us: «Be careful on the floor...». This new space is a place of experimentation for his oil paintings.

For the first time, JonOne is showing the result of this new research: «For me, oil is not street art, it is part of the Fine Arts, and I consider it as a step in my creative journey. This is a fantastic material, its brightness is very different, and the colors are much stronger and deeper. But this technique needs to be tamed, it took me over a year to prepare these works.»

The work wih the material is remarkable in this new project. The canvas is enriched with a volume consisting of sand and glue, which add shadows and irregularities to the writing. Repetitive tag JonOne, that usually constitutes the skeleton of the works, here becomes almost unreadable. He orchestrates his own erasure. «I do not see the tag, it goes towards pure abstraction. Now my signature becomes something purely gestural.»

In the studio, you can see other works that are very dense material and some more graphic ones, looking like signs. Then, there is a centerpiece: the flag of the United States covered with tags - JonOne, JonOne, JonOne ... - John The One, the only one, displays his insubordination by signing the highly symbolic stars and stripes of the American flag. «This flag is my transgression, as well as tagging a wall. When I painted this I was like mad, it was a night of true frenziness. In the United States, I could go to jail for that, an American would be extremely offended by this gesture. It is not revenge, but it is what my relationship to the United States is: I created my own history with this country, and it is neither patriotic nor nationalistic. I did not consider writing my name everywhere was art, or what is now called street-art. At the time it was my revolt. This flag is part of this rebellion: I consider this country as a system of oppression behind the word democracy, as well as oppression in the USSR was behind the term communism. We allow atrocities in the name of ideologies. I do not think a lot has changed with Obama, look at what revealed Edward Snowden - I really admire him, I think he is a hero.»

JonOne is part of a mature practice without forgetting its origins: he is now considered as an abstract painter who uses the visual language of the street, but when asked about his relationship with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, he now prefers an affiliation with Raymond Hains, Jacques Villéglé, Christopher Wool and Ben. «My work has always been changing, and today I feel like I’ve become a complete artist.» - Alice Cazaux

Rabouan Moussion Gallery
121 rue Vieille du Temple
Paris 75003 France
Ph. +33 (0)18 3567821

Opening hours
Monday - Saturday
From 10am to 7pm

Related images

  1. JonOne, Staying True, 110 x 110 cm
  2. JonOne, Le Combat de ma Vie, 110 x 110 cm
  3. JonOne, Manifestation, 110 x 110 cm
  4. JonOne, Flow Like Water, 160 x 160 cm
  5. JonOne, Forest Mist, 110 x 110 cm
  6. JonOne, Impressions, 110 x 110 cm