Retna is another superstar street artist who has taken his work into the gallery space. His unique style – which looks like some derivation of an ancient Persian – is actually his own, an amalgam of symbols, letters, pictographs and motifs taken from his own multicultural background of El Salvadorian, Cherokee, Spaniard, Pipil and African-American lineage and of course graffiti. Each work has a meaning, each describes an experience.
Some of you may know Retna’s work already – his murals are pretty well known, his style instantly recognisable – but it’s interesting to see how his work is being described and contextualised now that he’s in a gallery. Having said that street art has played an increasingly important part in the contemporary art scene – you only have to look at the work of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Shephard Fairey and many more to realise that.
Anyway, he currently has an exhibition on in his hometown of LA and here’s what they have to say about his work:
Retna is a has a particular interest in the visual writings of ancient cultures, from Arabic and Persian to Hebrew and Native American. Both hieroglyphics and the graceful tradition of ink calligraphy inform his paintbrush while the angles and curves of his improvised alphabet echo the architecture of a mosque or Asian temple. Equally evident in Retna’s nuanced script is the artist’s interest in Modernist abstraction. One can see influences of Mark Tobey’s intricate and orderly composition as well as the gestural strength of Franz Kline. Retna’s works are simultaneously conceptual, literal and abstract. The artist is able to synthesize all of these precedents and influences into a seamless and elegant abstract painting.
You can see his work at The Michael Kohn Gallery, 8071 Beverly Boulevard, LA, California until 27th October, 2012
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