Menzies Art Brands



RETNA, born Marquis Lewis, is one of the most successful street artists in the world. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he was inspired by the booming L.A. graffiti scene from a young age, picking up his first can of spray paint at just nine years old. As a teenager in the 1990s, Lewis chose his now famous pseudonym, RETNA, from the lyrics of a song by the Wu-Tang Clan, Heaterz: kinetic globes light when it shine, burns your retina.1

RETNAs text-based signature style is defined by a unique typography of his own creation. The long geometric script derives from a combination of blackletter, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy, as well as contemporary graffiti tags. The writing does not belong to a particular language but is instead RETNAs own visual language that represents the universality of communication and expression. As 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.2

A true nonconformist, RETNA defies even the traditions of street art by painting with a brush as well as aerosol, on canvases as well as walls. Through his choice of materials and technique he achieves intricate line work and complex layering, as exemplified in the present work. RETNA cites an eclectic mix of artistic influences including illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages, as well as modern masters such as Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). He also draws inspiration from the work of fellow American graffiti artists Saber (born 1976) and David Choe (born 1976) among others.

RETNA successfully blurs the boundaries between the elite fine art world and the expansive realm of commercial enterprise, marrying the two in an illustrious career. He has exhibited internationally at prestigious art institutions including Maddox Gallery in London, The Don Gallery in Milan, and Yves Laroche Galerie dArt in Montreal. Closer to home, his works have been shown at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, New Image Gallery, and L.A. Art Machine. In 2016 he was commissioned to paint a mural on the side of a public housing building in Mexico City named Edificio Cuauhtmoc.3 The 24-story visual poem in his signature script is admired by civilians for miles around. However perhaps his most widespread piece was his artwork for the cover of Justin Biebers 2015 album, Purpose, which broke the global streaming record for an album in its first week. Similarly high-profile commercial commissions include designs for Nikes Las Vegas store opening in 2011, for Louis Vuittons Miami Design District boutique in 2012, the painting of a VistaJet tailfin in 2012, and stage sets for Seattle Opera and the Washington National Opera in 2017.


1. Midgette, A., This legendary street artist has done walls, shoes and Bieber albums. Now hes trying opera, The Washington Post, Washington D.C., 1 September 2017
2. RETNA, Artsy, accessed 21/5/21,
3. RETNA Intervino el Edificio Cuauhtmoc en Tlatelolco, Nice Fucking Graphics!, 13 February 2017

Asta Cameron BA, MA (Art Curatorship)

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