Retna American, b. 1979
Marquis Lewis, known to the art world as RETNA, is an American street artist born in 1979 in Los Angeles. RETNA’s style is characterised by his signature typescript, which combines Egyptian hieroglyphics, Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy with familiarised forms of urban street graffiti. In this way, RETNA bridges the gap between tradition and innovation by drawing inspiration from etymology as well as earlier artists such as Gustav Klimt and Jean-Michel Basquiat and amalgamating these influences into his final striking, playful and contemporary artworks with an undeniably recognisable and distinctive character.
RETNA’s interest in the evolution of linguistics is encapsulated by his statement: “I had a fascination for cultures that had passed, that had informed the future and who we are as a people. I was always intrigued by that kind of work.” By fusing different linguistic typologies, RETNA works to create a poetic language and style that is universal and recognisable by people of different cultures, boundaries and especially languages. His art thus not only connects the past with the present, but also creates a universal narrative that can be widely appreciated and valued across the globe.
By layering both acrylic and spray paint on canvas as well as other mixed media such as vehicle parts, RETNA achieves great detail with an expressive and hypnotising effect that can be recognised immediately as work by renowned artist. Whilst RETNA’s works are easily identifiable, each artwork is meticulously intricate leading the viewer to become immersed into a web of complexity and a mesmerising alternative reality. The paradoxical expression of seemingly similar yet repetitive forms combined with entirely unique and complex compositional arrangements characterise RETNA’s captivating style.
RETNA is highly regarded with a prestigious reputation as one of the wealthiest street artists of our time, completely debunking the traditional myth around street-artists and success. This reputation manifests in his growing and distinguished commissions and collaborations. Amongst others he has collaborated with Nike and Louis Vuitton as well as designing the cover of Justin Bieber’s 2015 album, Purpose. RETNA’s successful and individual artworks have been exhibited in various esteemed galleries worldwide such as L.A. Art Machine in Los Angeles, Don Gallery in Milan and Yves Laroche Galerie d’Art in Montreal. RETNA currently continues to live and practise in Los Angeles.