At first glance, the work of the artist Retna looks like an undiscovered ancient script: a series of hypnotic symbols—complex, beautiful and captivating. But Retna has created an original alphabet, fusing together influences from ancient Incan and Egyptian hieroglyphics, Arabic, Hebrew, Asian calligraphy, and graffiti.
Each piece carries meaning, conveying an event or dialogue that the artist experienced.As a youth of African-American, El Salvadorian and Cherokee descent growing up in Los Angeles, Retna (real name Marquis Lewis) was mesmerised by the gang graffiti that surrounded him. He began practicing the art form, and adopted the name Retna from a Wu-Tang Clan song. In the mid-nineties he began making murals on walls, trains and freeway overpasses throughout the city.
Retna has transformed from a street artist to a break-out star in the contemporary art world. He has garnered attention from Usher, an R&B artist, who commissioned the artist to create a portrait of Marvin Gaye, and MOCA director Jeffrey Deitc.