RETNA, ‘Braddock Tiles’, 2013, Julien's Auctions
RETNA, ‘Braddock Tiles’, 2013, Julien's Auctions

A fine example of Retna’s calligraphy-based graffiti art, or calligraffiti as it is often referred, the Braddock Tiles print was designed and executed as part of a fund-raising campaign to help reinvigorate the economically distressed area of North Braddock, Pennsylvania. The print shares its name with an artist run ceramic tile factory in North Braddock which is housed in an abandoned church. Retna uses a form of self-invented script that mixes styles found in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, German Fraktur, and Arabic lettering, among others. Retna has exhibited his work extensively, including in shows at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. —Courtesy of Julien’s Auctions

Signature: Unsigned. Titled on verso in pencil "RETNA, BRADDOCK TILES"

Image rights: Courtesy of Julien's Auctions


The street and studio artist Retna, born Marquis Lewis, picked his moniker from the lyrics of a Wu Tang song that resonated with him in his youth. Retna explains that he was inspired to pursue art after seeing graffiti on the freeway, and his practice now includes street art and painting on canvas. Retna has become known for his long and geometric script, which he developed while looking towards Egyptian and Native American traditional symbols. Though his marks resemble the calligraphy of multiple cultures (and he maintains that he composes his works in English and Spanish), the writing does not belong to a particular language. 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.”

American, b. 1978, Los Angeles, California, based in Los Angeles, California