RETNA, ART 16, London


19 – 22 May 2016



Coburn Projects is delighted to announce its participation at ART 16 with works on paper by LA based artist RETNA. 

Retna’s unmistakable aesthetic and style integrates appropriated contemporary photography, graffiti, traditional painting as well as a unique glyphic style. He has emerged as one of the most prolific street artists in the contemporary art world but also appears and participates in many institutions and gallery exhibitions worldwide. Retna’s work is a panoply of ancient writing cultures, from Arabic and Persian to Hebrew and Native American that he translates with angles and curves of an improvised personal alphabet reflecting the architecture of a mosque or a temple. His expressive merging of the spiritual with the sensual, fluidity with grit and abstract, conceptual with literal, his works on canvas and paper are an exceptional lense through which we perceive and view contemporary culture. Retna’s oeuvre contains imagery and histories that are vast and diverse. The symbols and pictographs of his signature script are inlaid with his multicultural background of El Salvadorian, Cherokee, Spaniard, Pipil and African-American lineage.

The street and studio artist 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.”

image: 'Times of Blue', 2014, acrylic ink on water color paper, 30 x 22 in (Photo credit the artist)