MOCA presents RETNA: Para mi gente, a site-specific installation on view at MOCA Grand Avenue.
Los Angeles-based artist RETNA has a created an extensive environment inside the MOCA galleries, employing his sophisticated system of hieroglyphs, calligraphy, and illuminated script, which mirrors his sprawling public murals. Drawing upon Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, Old English, East Asian, and Native American typographies, RETNA has crafted his own lexicon and visual vocabulary that speaks to larger world histories and cross-cultural commonalities.
MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch said, "The work is totally contemporary but traces back to ancient scripts. RETNA filters these elements through the tradition of tagging and graffiti that has been seen in Los Angeles since the 1970s. All the best art is past, present, and future combined, and this is what RETNA is doing."
The installation features two large-scale murals, Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma (For my people, the Painters of our Spirit) and The falcon, before and after, that provide very different views of the artistÃ¢ÂÂs practice and trajectory. Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma pays homage to modern and contemporary artists in the field, many of whom are in MOCAÃ¢ÂÂs renowned permanent collection. When offered the opportunity to create the piece inside the museum alongside many of the artists that have influenced his work, RETNA chose to honor them by writing their names in his distinctive calligraphic characters. Referencing the practice of graffiti tagging to claim terrain and assert oneÃ¢ÂÂs presence, as well as the creation of memorial walls, RETNA actively chooses to commemorate artists both living and deceased whose visions have informed his process and aesthetic. While most viewers will be unable to decipher his alphabet, the artist has provided the following translation:
BrimstoneSamoKeithHaringBasquiatWarholLichtensteinPollockRothkoDuchamp RauschenbergdeKooningCyTwomblyPicassoSchnabelLongoSerraAyerMotherwell HirstPrinceRubinsRuschaHopperGainesBrimstoneBradfordGlennLigonNegroCurry StellasoLopezJasperJohnsBourgeoisBaconSachsDeitchHope MiranomÃÂ¡sIgotthekeystothedoor Brimstone. AWR. MSK
The falcon, before and after, draws more heavily on the Chicano writing styles of Los Angeles street art crews and marks a return to RETNAÃ¢ÂÂs more traditional graffiti practice and his original process painting in public space. In keeping with his earlier work, the artist makes frequent reference to the spirit of the Falcon, an ancient Egyptian emblem signifying success, victory, power, and wisdom.
RETNA (AKA Marquis Lewis) was born in 1979 in Los Angeles, CA. At an early age, Retna was introduced to L.A.Ã¢ÂÂs mural culture and while still in high school led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives in the city. An integral part of the Los Angeles art scene since the mid-1990s, RETNA has participated in over thirty international exhibitions and countless public murals. Recent projects have included a solo exhibition at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2012); the Houston/Bowery wall in New York City (2012); a mural for the Louis Vuitton store, Miami, and SLS Hotel (2012); participation in Art in the Streets at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (2011); The Hallelujah World Tour, a traveling solo exhibition presented by Andrew Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfield, New York, and London (2011); Ã¢ÂÂSilver LiningÃ¢ÂÂ, as part of Primary Flight, the WorldÃ¢ÂÂs Largest Street Level Mural Installation at Art Basel Miami Beach (2010); Desaturated, a solo exhibition at New Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles (2010); and a mural for the Margulies Collection in Miami, FL (2009). Upcoming exhibitions include: Zona Maco, Michael Kohn Gallery, Mexico City, MX (2013), and Art Basel Hong Kong(2013).