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Around Los Angeles, through the end of the year, keep an eye out for new RETNA billboards going up! There are a few up already at Melrose and Highland, Melrose and La Brea and Santa Monica and Fairfax. Keep an eye out here for the locations of the upcoming ones!

by Fabiola Beracasa
on April 18, 2011 – 2:33 PM

While in LA for ELLE’s Women in Music party, I took a minute to catch up with Retna, the breakout LA street artist who’s among the lucky few chosen by Jeffrey Deitch for MOCA’s Art in the Streets show.  Retna, aka Marquis Lewis, has a heart warming smile to offset his devilish glances, and happily told us how he grew from a “graffiti artist” and landed in one of the most important street art shows to date.

ELLE: When did you know this was your calling ?
R: I liked graffiti when I was about eight-years-old, but it wasn’t really called street art at that time, it was just graffiti.  When I first saw it I knew that was what I wanted to do I just never really thought that it would turn into a career, you know? I just did it because it made me feel good, or it made me happy when I looked at it, but I never would’ve thought of where it would go…

ELLE: When did it turn from something that you loved, and did passionately, to something you could actually live off of?
I think that was maybe the past seven years.  [I] got into design, my first forays into actually making money off this or being able to make somewhat of a living off this was designing graphics for clothing companies.  So I was designing for this Japanese brand doing some cut and sew stuff; I think at that point I saw, “Hey I can do these graphics, and you know I can pay for other stuff that I want to do,” and then little jobs just started carrying on and it kind of kept leading to other things.  I did a lot of stuff just from the heart for free for the longest time and, well, you do things because you want to do them and you don’t want to sit around and wait for people to pay you.  You think, “Well fuck, I’ll just go make it happen.”

ELLE: What does it feel like to be part of Jeffrey Deitch’s Street Art Exhibition?
R: It feels great.  I’m really excited to be a part of it, it’s definitely a little overwhelming [as] it’s my first museum showing.  It seems like it came a lot earlier than I expected.  As a kid you want those institutions to recognize you and make you feel like you’re important.  I acknowledge [Jeffrey’s] commitment to what we do and I’m really honored to be a part of it.  It’s exciting to be in a show with all of these people that you grew up looking up to and it’s kind of mind blowing.  I would’ve never thought that they’d come visit me at my studio when I was eight-years-old, looking at these books that they were in.  They’re the greatest people and then to be around them and to actually exhibit with them, it’s kind of something unreal.

ELLE: There’s always that argument that when you move the graffiti, the street art indoors, into a museum into a gallery, it loses something.  How do you feel about that?
R: That’s all on the person viewing it. I think what’s great about that movement is that some guys still do both… so I think the idea early on with graffiti or street artists was you always want things that you can’t have, you always want to be in that spots that you can’t be in or you know people don’t want you to be in—so when we wanted to climb and paint this building we needed to figure out a way to go do it—so I think with the museum it’s just another aspect of that same mentality.  We wanted to be in there, so we figured out how to get in the door and put our stuff all over it.  Or, a couple [of] people crack the door and then the flood gates [open].   I feel that if it wasn’t for all of those, my predecessors doing all of the early work from the 70s and 80s and 90s and what have you, I wouldn’t be able to be there.

ELLE: You’ve worked with fashion companies before, how does fashion influence your art? Or do you feel that there is a correlation for you?
R: I’ve been heavily influenced by fashion, and a lot of that work was influenced by like Art Nouveau and stuff like that.  It still relates to some of my other work where I do matadors and bishops and these pieces where the clothing is just a little bit older, but I’m still kind of following along those same lines.  I obviously love and enjoy looking at fashion magazines, mostly women’s fashion, not really interested in men’s fashion so much.  I just think it looks great and it’s art.

ELLE: Did you ever get in trouble for doing graffiti?
R: Yeah, I’ve been arrested a good amount of times. My mother was just devastated.  She came here from El Salvador, worked two jobs and tried to send me to some of the best schools and I gravitated toward graffiti early on.  So for her it just hurt, it was really a disappointment.  She loves it now.  She’s more protective of the work.  She used to throw away a lot of my work early on, but that’s also what made me better.  She was my biggest critic at the time.

ELLE: Where do you see Retna going from here?
In my mind’s eye? To the end I guess… yeah, till the end of time…




A&I Gallery is pleased to announce: “PSSSSTT… Wanna good time?” Polaroids by Rick Shameless

Artists’ Reception: Saturday, August 21, 2010 | 7–10pm
Exhibition continues through September 25th.

The collection of Polaroid portraits of women in the adult industry is the culmination of a 2 1⁄2 year project. In his work, Shameless makes a startling correlation between disposable art and women who are perceived as disposable within the adult industry. The Polaroid’s capture their subjects in their own intimate environments without exploiting but rather celebrating the normality of what society often considers a very un-normal lifestyle.

A&I Photographic & Digital Services Lab
733 N. Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 856-5280 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (323) 856-5280 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

The Lost Ones

August 12th, 2010


View RETNA’s installation

July 28th, 2010


For its final exhibition in South Park, RIVERA & RIVERA is excited to present a floor-to-ceiling installation piece by international graffiti artist Marquis Lewis aka RETNA.

RETNA’s installation explores the complex nature of a fluid lexicon derived from hieroglyphs and inspired by street text. Through a spectrum of materials, the text is granted an awe-inspiring dimension.

His previous work includes prominently visible murals in Los Angeles, Milan, New York City, Salt Lake City, Mexico City, Seoul, Barcelona, Melbourne, Tokyo and Taipei (view here).

Join us for the unveiling reception on Thursday, July 29 from 8PM to 11PM or visit the gallery before Saturday July 31st to view the recent installation.


Date: Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time: 8:00PM-11:00PM

Rivera & Rivera
1100 S. Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
( get directions )

T: 310.713.1635

Here are a few process shots taken with my good friends over at modern multiples as I was preparing for my show at New Image.

Deitch, Marsea, Retna

April 11th, 2010


Desaturated Video

April 11th, 2010

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