“All the best art is past, present, and future combined and this is what Retna is doing”
VoCE’ Haircare clebrates the art of Griffiti Artist RETNA!
RETNA really needs no introduction. He’s fresh off an explosive 15-page feature and cover of September’s Juxtapoz magazine with a glowing introduction by MOCA’s new director- Jeffrey Deitch. Last week, RETNA finished a commission at the Las Vegas Cosmopolitan towers alongside of Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey, and, this week, he’s in Detroit painting alongside of Richard Colman for the Juxtapoz x Power House restoration project. RETNA is also slated for a solo show at Primary Flight during Art Basel Miami. Needless to say, he’s staying quite busy ahead of his participation in the 2011 MOCA exhibit.
September 2010, Retna is selected for the upcoming Museum of Contemporary Art Geffen show “Art in the Streets,” April 2011, recognized by curator Jeffrey Deitch as a prominent up and coming street artist. “All the best art is past, present, and future combined and this is what Retna is doing” - Jeffrey Deitch
From Juxtapoz, September 2010: “One of the most exciting exhibitions that I have seen this year, anywhere, was Retna’s exhibition at New Image Art,” writes Jeffrey Deitch in his Juxtapoz interview “During one of my visits to Los Angeles in the transition period prior to coming on as Director of MOCA I asked that, Marsea, director at New Image, see what the show was that evening, and she said RETNA. I had never heard of him, but went because I trust Marsea’s program. I walked in while Retna was still setting up at the last minute and was about to paint the interior of the inner-room. I thought the work was extraordinary, some of the freshest work I had seen all year.
“What amazed me was how fast and effortless it all seemed. The approach to his work is so internalized that Retna doesn’t have to agonize, and thinking, what do I do next? He just starts in the upper left corner and moves across a surface. The only other artist that I know who was able to do that was Keith Haring. The vocabulary was just so internalized. I compare it to a great jazz musician as well, who improvises within a framework. Having a composition in mind, he starts with just one note, and shaping it as they form an aesthetic structure developed over years of practice. Retna is able to do that from an artistic visual point of view, improvising quickly, and flowing through.
“I always like an artist who can fuse different media, and Retna fuses poetry, painting, and drawing. The words within are tough, reflecting his life, and mixed with the painting, redefine concrete poetry from a streetoriented perspective. The work is totally contemporary, but traces back to ancient script. It draws on Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Mayan glyphs, as well as Mexican and pre-Columbian heritage. He filters those traditions through the tradition of tagging and graffiti that has been seen in Los Angeles since the 1970s. Within these traditions, he has come up with something entirely his own.”
Retna was born in Los Angeles, California in 1979. Since first creating a name for himself in the early 1990s, Retna has become an “eternal broadcaster” of sorts, shining a light to the kinetic urban soul of Los Angeles. The name RETNA itself evokes the timeless power, movement and visual vibrancy behind the artist’s acclaimed work. His work merges photography with graffiti style and paint, time with color, couture with street culture, the spiritual with the sensual, and fluidity with grit. Whether his paintings hang in a gallery or wall on the streets of Los Angeles, they serve as a retina through which we view the urban journal of contemporary art.
At an early age, Retna was introduced to L.A.’s mural culture. While still in high school, he led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives the city has witnessed. He is perhaps best known for appropriating fashion advertisements and amplifying them with his unique layering, intricate line work, text-based style and incandescent color palette reflecting an eclectic artistic tradition. RETNA became just as notorious for his ornate painting technique as his timeless style: he used paintbrushes mixed with the traditional spray can. Many of his pieces synthesize the line between fine art and graffiti, between power and opposition, between tradition and advancement, between the past and future. In 2000, he had his first group exhibition at the Contemporary Corruption Show at 01 Gallery in Los Angeles. He released his “Men of the Cloth” series at the Mendenhall Sobieski gallery in Pasadena, California in 2006.
Today, Retna traverses between the galleries and streets with ease. In addition to being aligned with the Art Work Rebels and Mad Society Kings Art Groups, he is a member of the internationally exclusive art collective, The Seventh Letter, whose influence on contemporary street art encompasses the globe. In December 2007, he contributed to a large-scale mural project with El Mac and Reyes called “La Reina del Sur” at Miami’s Art Basel. His most recent projects include an exhibition titled “Will Rise” at Robert Berman Gallery and an installation called, “Street Life” at the LA Weekly corporate office.