Special thanks to A. Moret of Installation Magazine for taking the trip to Paris on behalf of Design Milk and thank you to Air France for the hospitality! Below is A’s experience:
It’s early afternoon in Paris—even though my watch is still set nine hours behind to Pacific Coast time—when our Air France airbus touches down at Charles de Gaulle Airport. During the transatlantic journey, two syllables continued to echo against the gentle hum of the Boeing 777—“JonOne.” Known to many as John Andrew Perello, AKA JonOne, the street artist born to two Dominican parents in New York, the artist found his voice in Paris after his large-scale work titled “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” was inaugurated at the National Assembly in the Salon de Mariannes in January of 2015.
In a unique collaboration with Air France, JonOne created an original design to adorn one of the largest and most desirable canvases—a Boeing 777. The design had not yet been seen by the press and it was only a matter of time until it was revealed. His name grew louder in between glasses of Bordeaux and courses served from an artisanal menu more typically encountered in a Michelin star restaurant rather than at high altitudes crossing the Atlantic Ocean. JonOne was calling. The airbus made its final stop at the gate and the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt sign. The journey had just begun.
Traveling to the outskirts of the city to Paris Orly Airport, our charter bus began to make a series of winding turns around administrative offices, hangars and parked airplanes. The bus made several stops at security checkpoints that rivaled NORAD. We presented our passports and Driver’s Licenses to a team of official agents who then cross-checked the information against their master list with great scrutiny and intensity. At our final stop, the head agent exited the bus and waited patiently next to the door of a massive airplane hangar. He pushed the door open letting its metal hinges creak and for a moment it was silent as a gust of wind got picked up from the field. Standing inside a hangar with a Boeing 777 cannot truly be described in words. The sheer scale of the aircraft has the power to take your breath away and for a moment it did. Dwarfed by the propellers, we looked up the to the passenger windows towering above and noticed areas of the plane covered in brown paper. We stood like children in a candy factory marveling at every facet of the tremendous machine before us. The wings cast a shadow, the blades of the propellers were mesmerizing and all we could think to do was capture a single photograph that truthfully revealed the scale of the aircraft before us.
Soon a voice emerged from the opposite end of the hangar and JonOne walked toward us smiling ear to ear looking up at his creation hiding beneath a paper blanket. “We had this crazy idea to paint a plane,” he said with a grin. “To me, that seemed like painting a rocket ship or flying to the moon.” Air France who recently celebrated their 80th anniversary has maintained the slogan “Air France, France is in the Air.” Demonstrating a commitment to the arts, their collaboration with JonOne to redesign the accent, a symbol inherent to the brand, points to their ambitious spirit to look ahead to the talent that shapes the contemporary landscape and bring it to the skies. For one year, JonOne’s original design will appear on select Boeing 777 traveling from Paris to New York.
Each aircraft is grounded at Paris Orly for four full weeks undergoing cabin modifications as well as the exterior redesign. It takes nearly 8,000 man-hours to complete each plane. “Before I painted planes, I used to paint on trains, he explains. “Trains used to be for me my play yard in New York. It was like a moving museum and that’s the what attracted me to painting. I like the action and the capacity of movement, of power, thrust. The image should appear as a “blur” almost of out focus, and not appear in a figurative or representative way.” As a seasoned traveler, the artist explained that whenever he stepped foot on an Air France plane he felt like he made it back home. Now the sky will become a gallery for international travelers to discover the spirit of JonOne.
Eager to reveal his work, the artist steps onto a lift that carries him high above the crowd. Pulling off each piece of brown paper he reveals pieces of blue, white and red panels covered in his unique gestural street writing style measuring 13×22 feet. He pointed to the tragic events in January at Charlie Hebdo as one of the first times had seen the people of Paris united. “There were a lot of people in the streets of Paris with the French flag,” he recalls. “Everyone was united at that time. There was no right. There was no left. They were united about being french and defending the values of France. I had never seen French people rally around one common cause, around the flag.” The flag became a symbol and a vehicle for the artist to convey the values and beauty of his country.
In the wake of the recent terror attacks the transpired since the unveiling, JonOne’s imagery resonates even louder than ever. A waving flag soaring across the skies echoing in the hearts of the world.
A native Angeleno, A. Moret (pronounced like the Dean Martin song “That’s Amore”) travels the city and often the world visiting artist studios, galleries and museums and records it all in a black Moleskin. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Installation Magazine, an all-digital publication that believes art should be a source of conversation not intimidation. To date over 500 artists have been featured in its digital pages working across all disciplines and various stages of their career. As a Chief Arts Contributor for leading national publications, A. is always on the move conducting studio visits, curatorial profiles and exhibition reviews. After making her curatorial debut last year in New York City during Armory Week, she continues to explore opportunities to give artist’s a platform to share their work and tell their story. While she wears many hats as an editor, writer, artistic director and curator, A’s biggest challenge is finding more wall space to fill her art collection.