Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery Brings the Universal, Unifying Paintings of L.A.-Based Street/Studio Artist Retna to New York City

These days, it is no surprise to walk into the pristine space of a gallery or a museum and find the walls (and sometimes the ceilings and floors) popping with the bright colors and punchy text of wheat-pasted posters, graffiti, image-laden murals, and other stuff of the street. In addition, the monikers—such as Banksy, KAWS, and Invader—of the traditionally clandestine artists who make such work, more often than not under the cover of night and in disguise, one eye always out for the police, are now household names. More recently, Marquis Lewis, a.k.a. Retna, has joined the ranks of these celebrated street-cum-studio artists, with his bold installations and paintings, many of them filled edge-to-edge with his signature blended script. Of this thirst for the art of the street, Retna once said: “Here’s something that grew from the street that was looked at as a malicious, vindictive thing—and now it’s been glorified.”

Among the many who glory in Retna’s work is New York-based Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery, which opened in 2014. The gallery recently feted the artist during Art Basel in Miami Beach Week, and will begin 2015 with a solo exhibition of his large-scale paintings, titled “RETNA: Articulate & Harmonic Symphonies of the Soul.” Viewers can expect to find themselves awash in a sea of elongated, blocky letters, whose composite style reflects the artist’s beguiling pastiche of influences, including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Gothic script, Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy, Native American motifs, and gang graffiti. Writing in both English and Spanish, Retna has been honing his script for more than twenty years. For him, its language is universal, and unifying. “I want my text to feel universal,” he once explained. “I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not. My art allows me to see people all as one.”

Karen Kedmey

RETNA: Articulate & Harmonic Symphonies of the Soul” is on view at Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery, New York, Feb. 12–Mar. 12, 2015.

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