RETNA, ‘Eastern Realm (Gold)’, 2014, Julien's Auctions

Eastern Realm is easily recognizable as work by the now iconic artist Retna—from his dominant gold palette and striking letters that resemble hieroglyphics. This signature visual language leaves the viewer wondering whether his elegant typography contains linguistic meaning or is a form of abstraction. The title itself hints at a language Westerners won't or can't understand. Constructing letters from a variety of diverse sources, Retna challenges the viewer without overtly confronting them with its meaning. Retna has exhibited his work extensively, including in shows at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.


Signature: Signed to the lower right.

Smogtown 13 Press, Purchased from the above by the present owner.


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