Retna :: Desaturated :: March 2010
It was my honor to introduce Retna, a friend and former colleague to New Image Art for his first exhibition at the gallery. At our initial meeting Marsea (owner of NIA) was inspired by an old Keith Haring installation and suggested that Retna paint the entire project room in black and white text. In the main gallery we discussed how to best incorporate the colorful and ancient looking design-work, which Retna had been well known for that were painted on "Bebe" bus-stop advertisements. It was my suggestion that Retna experiment with taking his own photos of women for this show and incorporate text while keeping the entire show in black and white. What Retna created was phenomenal to say the least, "Desaturated" was a game-changer on many levels.
Retna was born in Los Angeles, California in 1979. Since first creating a name for himself in the early 1990s, Retna has become an “eternal broadcaster” of sorts, shining a light to the kinetic urban soul of Los Angeles. The name RETNA itself evokes the timeless power, movement and visual vibrancy behind the artist’s acclaimed work. His work merges photography with graffiti style and paint, time with color, couture with street culture, the spiritual with the sensual, and fluidity with grit. Whether his paintings hang in a gallery or wall on the streets of Los Angeles, they serve as a retina through which we view the urban journal of contemporary art.
At an early age, Retna was introduced to L.A.’s mural culture. While still in high school, he led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives the city has witnessed. He is perhaps best known for appropriating fashion advertisements and amplifying them with his unique layering, intricate line work, text-based style and incandescent color palette reflecting an eclectic artistic tradition. RETNA became just as notorious for his ornate painting technique as his timeless style: he used paintbrushes mixed with the traditional spray can. Many of his pieces synthesize the line between fine art and graffiti, between power and opposition, between tradition and advancement.