“I want my text to feel universal. I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not.” – RETNA
The street and studio artist Retna, born Marquis Lewis, picked his moniker from the lyrics of a Wu-Tang song that resonated with him in his youth. RETNA explains that he was inspired to pursue art after seeing graffiti on the freeway, and his practice now includes street art and painting on canvas. RETNA has become known for his long and geometric script, which he developed while looking towards Egyptian and Native American traditional symbols. Though his marks resemble the calligraphy of multiple cultures (and he maintains that he composes his works in English and Spanish), the writing does not belong to a particular language. RETNA explains, “I want my text to feel universal. I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not.”
RETNA is an American street artist known for his unique typography and letterforms. RETNA combines visual linguistics, urban poetics, and appropriated fashion imagery to explore an eclectic range of media, including graffiti, photography, and painting. “It is important to have art in the streets as a cultural fabric that is woven into the city for the upliftment of civic pride,” he once stated. Born Marquis Lewis on March 24, 1979 in Los Angeles, CA, he joined the Los Angeles mural scene as a teenager, developing his text-based signature style featuring intricate line work, complex layering, and a wide range of colour. Painting with a brush in addition to a spray can, the artist achieves highly detailed line work. He has exhibited at venues throughout the world, notably including L.A. Art Machine in Los Angeles, Don Gallery in Milan, Yves Laroche Galerie d’Art in Montreal, and Art for All in Malaga, among others. The artist continues to live and works in Los Angeles, CA.