RETNA, ‘Sonia’, 2010, Julien's Auctions

The merging of photography with his graffiti style painting is present throughout Retna’s body of work, often intertwining fashion with street art to create a prism through which to view the images. When asked if his letters have linguistic meaning, Retna has said: “There is. It could be a poem, it could be just stuff that I’m thinking about, for me it’s just a very meditative process; I’m just having a conversation with myself. Sometimes I allow the music to influence what I'm writing… They all say something.” Another version of Sonia was used on the cover of Juxtapoz Magazine in 2010. Retna has exhibited his work extensively, including in shows at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

New Image Gallery.


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