RETNA (Marquis Duriel Lewis) (born 1979) comes from Los Angeles. At the age of fifteen, he began painting on posted fashion advertisements and, from there, led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives in the city. In addition to exhibiting at institutions and galleries in Los Angeles (including the façade of The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s Grand Avenue location for their 2013 Gala celebrating the blockbuster exhibition Art In The Streets), Miami, London, New York (including the prestigious public exhibition space of the Houston-Bowery Wall), and Hong Kong, RETNA has created exclusive collaborations with brands such as VistaJet, Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. RETNA lives and works in Los Angeles.
RETNA accesses spaces between text-based imagery and abstract emotive states with his mysterious lines of verse. Each block of text is a sophisticated system of hieroglyphs, calligraphy and illuminated script. With influences from Arabic, Egyptian, Hebrew, Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) and Native American typographies, RETNA’s distinctive language communicates a personal form of poetry. RETNA’s messages are masked in ciphers: words and meanings that are never immediately revealed, nor capable of being accurately translated. He employs ancient totemic symbologies as a baseline, overlaid with beats from the urban jungle (sourced from his background in Los Angeles, born from Pipil – western indigenous El Salvadorian – Cherokee, Spaniard, and African-American bloodlines. These diverse subcultures are channeled into his work, often accompanied (either in the studio or on the street) by a stream of ambient or musical sounds. It is this multi-sensory experience that is brushed onto the surface for RETNA: a synthesis of auditory and visual content, spontaneously manifested.