The Secret Language of Retna. Graffiti Going Abstract.

Looking at the cavalcade of new Retna paintings for his “Hallelujah World Tour” New York debut, currently on display at a pop up shop in West Soho, you’ll see elements of anthropology, historical academia, and the current street penchant for the remix, or mashup.

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Retna is one of a handful of today’s Street Artists with a background in graffiti taking the art form into the abstract, making it feel genuinely fresh and forward-looking. No doubt the literal meaning on the canvas might add an extra dimension to the piece but that’s probably not what the artist had in mind when he began exploring and developing his style as a graffiti writer in Los Angeles. It’s about the jolting energy of the street. Best viewed from the distance – his kinetic letters and symbols cannot remain still. The bold handstyle is spare, elegantly unpretentious and perfectly anarchistic.

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The effect of this stunningly lit and somehow crowded traveling show (despite a 10,000 square foot exhibition space) is mystery, monastery, in motion. It is also very exciting to witness in person; A periodic splash of red in the monochromatic scheme of white, black, and silver.

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Using the concept of the graffiti tag as a starting point to craft a secret language of symbols, the canvasses are messages known to him and his inner circle alone. His approach and style has been compared to hieroglyphics, the Egyptians, Incas and Eastern calligraphy but is probably more analogous to the coded graffiti of Brazilian pixação that his southern contemporaries are spraying in black throughout favela streets right now.

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Retna (photo © Jaime Rojo)

RETNA “The Hallelujah World Tour”

560 Washington Street, NYC

Thursday, February 10,2011 – Monday, February 21,2011

Daily Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM

General Inquiries: 212 242 2905

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