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, between the past and future. In 2000, he had his first group exhibition at the Contemporary Corruption Show at 01 Gallery in Los Angeles. He released his "Men of the Cloth" series at the Mendenhall Sobieski gallery in Pasadena, California in 2006.
Today, Retna traverses between the galleries and streets with ease. In addition to being aligned with the Art Work Rebels and Mad Society Kings Art Groups, he is a member of the internationally exclusive art collective, The Seventh Letter, whose influence on contemporary street art encompasses the globe. In December 2007, he contributed to a large-scale mural project with El Mac and Reyes called "La Reina del Sur" at Miami's Art Basel. His most recent projects include an exhibition titled "Will Rise" at Robert Berman Gallery and an installation called, "Street Life" at the LA Weekly corporate office.
We are fortunate to have Retna discuss his contribution to “FREEDOM & REVOLUTION” and his vision of art in the Digital Age.
Which work will you be exhibiting? Why did you select this piece?
The piece I have chosen to exhibit is a new work titled, The Future in Her Eyes. I chose this piece because it is centered around our most precious resource, youth--the defining factor of our generation.
What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist?
My charity I have decided to donate to is Inner-City Arts (www.inner-cityarts.org). This program, which allows children to explore the creative avenues of art, keeps children stimulated and engaged in positive activities after school and on the weekends.
My mural work is completely based on communities and created specifically with the community’s best interests in mind. I focus on making work that gives back and which neighbors can admire.
Please talk about your ideas of Freedom & Revolution. What do these words mean to you? How does your piece illustrate these ideas?
To me, freedom means expressing yourself with out getting persecuted. Free expression through mediums like art, religion and speech is what the “American Dream” is all about. Sometimes revolution goes hand in hand with freedom because if someone or a group feels they aren’t granted the same free rights as others they demand change. Revolution is the result of standing up for injustice and inequality.
My piece focuses on a young child whose mind has not been tainted by current events that are shaping the world today. The youth are the future of our generation and hold the power to revolutionize existing inequalities. I believe it is important to focus our energy on the youth and support their pursuits.
Edition One Hundred is founded with the idea of providing artists the opportunity to transform new technology into a tool to both produce affordable art while simultaneously connecting to non-traditional art collectors. What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred? Why did you decide to be involved? How do you see this as a platform to reach a broader audience for your work?
Edition One Hundred is a great way to utilize today’s advances in technology. It not only broadens the channel for which artists can create and share their work, it allows the work to reach a wider audience. It is a great opportunity for non-traditional art collectors to start collecting because it is affordable while still retaining the quality.
What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age?
Technology has paved a new path for artists by creating a new medium artists can work with. It is an art form in itself and also a tool that allows artists to improve their artwork. With the vast number of Internet outlets like blogging and flickr, it speeds up the time from when the art is made to when it is seen by others.
As an artist, you regularly produce work that is a manifestation of your distinctive vision. Yet at the same time you are influenced by the work of others. Do you collect art? If so, who do you collect? And if you had all the money in the world, who would you buy and why?
Yes, I am often inspired by other artist’s work. I have a sizeable collection with pieces by Richard Duardo, Camille Rose Garcia, Chaz Bojorquez, Frank Romero, Shepard Fairey, Revok, Saber, Kc Ortiz, Silvia Ji, Reyes, and Greg Bojorquez, just to name a few. If I had all the money in the world I would buy a Basquiat. I admire and relate to his rebellious spirit and also his work on walls.
Why should people buy art?
Art enriches people’s lives by allowing them to share opinions and interests on a level that sometimes can’t be described by words.
Edition One Hundred is curated, limited edition art available in editions of 100, priced at $100.00. Prints are hand-signed and numbered by the artists in a size and/or print exclusive to Edition One Hundred. More here.