One9 is one of those artists that slips under the radar of the culture, a virtuoso of many skills and interests whom Ive known for some 12 years now. In that time I have come to appreciate his journey and early history in the Washington DC graffiti scene, one which is often overlooked but relevant int the annals of our culture. He shares some recent works and some thoughts with us at Graffuturism.

GF – Your new works are crossing back and forth from expressionistic painting and modernist hard lined compositions, where are you finding the most comfort with the styles of painting?

One9-I would say I feel most free when the work feels raw and unfinished. I find a balance of laying down hard lines and breaking them wide open so there are no boundaries that limit aggression. Like Tiger stalking deer, there is a calmness that comes with the approach of layering the line work down then unloading animal instinct in breaking apart structure and limits.

GF- The paintings are devoid of any reference to your background in graffiti, is this intentional or do you hide it in the layering of paint?

One9 – I would say there is still references to my graff background in the way the lines have structural forms similar to the way I used to draw my letters out. In this case there aren’t any letters just free form connections using hard cuts and negative space.

GF – If there is a reference point of influence that is inspiring this type of work what is it?

One9 – Actually, this is how I used to paint growing up. There is a sense of freedom that comes with painting from the gut with a sense of history that I grew up with..I grew up in the DC area in the 80’s in a household where my father played allot of Mozart, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Perterson. I would go from one room listening to what he played into my own zone where I would draw and a paint while I listened to UltraMagnetics, Trouble Funk, Rare Essence, Mantronix, etc.. I would also have out some books out of Jackson Pollock paintings, Da Vinci sketches, few images of Phase 2’s IGT zine, some Vaughn Bode and watch ABC’s Wide World of Sport. “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat” Combing this elixir of sport, art. sound and raw aggression I felt totally unfiltered and free with my work. After my father past a few years ago I went back and started playing allot of the classical music again and starting painting with that sense of freedom I had growing up. Now, I paint with balance using negative space, mixed with the aggressive line work that I’ve learned over the years. Feels free to paint again with no boundaries.

GF – You have also been developing abstractions that are referencing Chess, that in itself is a rich metaphor for abstract and strategic thought how is this developing in the new wks?

One9 – Chess is a discipline that requires moving to spaces seen and unseen. I love the game Mare, addicted to it in a sense, I play every day online making one move a day against players around the world. In today’s fast paced world where people talk with in short spurts and texts, Chess allows me to still speak in a long thought out visual language that reminds me of painting. In my opinion, I compare playing chess to the battle styles created in the graff world in a sense that you have to create your space in layers, take risks that aren’t seen to your opponent and have the patience to defend and attack in asymmetric broken rhythms. In creating the paintings of the chess pieces I use the same type of fill that I would use in a graff letter or in a chess game. They both feel very similar.

GF – I have to ask about your history as a graffiti writer in Washington DC which is a close cousin to NYC but has rarely been considered for its tradition of writing culture.

One9 – Growing up in the DC area during the 80’s was a special time period in my opinion for various reasons. From a historical point of view DC has been a mecca for musical genius. You had Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Bad Brains and the raw sounds of Go-Go. From a visual standpoint, growing up initially I would see scratch tags from Go-Go names like “Gangsta Chronicles”, “Whats up Woody” and the king of getting up in DC “Cool Disco Dan” to name a few on busses and walls throughout DC. Once “Style Wars” and Subway Art came out I saw a rush of tags everywhere and initial throw ups and eventually burners. For me, this changed my life. This was the crack era in DC and at that time DC was known as the murder capital. A few friends and I had a store on 15th and U St. called ‘HeadFlows’ where we sold clothes made out of hemp, graff supplies and in the back you could buy any type of “lift” you wanted. Our security system was this guy that who just got out of jail who sold guns in the back and walked his 6 pitbulls outside the store. The feel of the city was something raw, gritty and soulful. Go-Go was the juice that pumped throughout city and Hip-Hop and early Punk and Skate culture were all coming together. There were spots like the old 930 club where you could see Trouble Funk with KRS or Organized Confusion and some indie rock band. Allot of writers would get up around these shows and connect and build. From my point of view I was connected to the music first and my writing/painting style was a reflection of what I was seeing and hearing.