A significant thunderstorm almost eclipsed the opening night for the exhibition of Dovetail Mortises & Peluca Grande by L.A.-based graffiti artist Marquis Duriel Lewis (aka RETNA) last week, presented by The Goss-Michael Foundation.
That night, ardent street-graffiti fans, intrigued art patrons and RETNA’s sweet Mum, who had come to Dallas to enjoy her son’s celebration—waited for his imminent yet delayed arrival. Sadly, the private jet was rerouted north of Dallas to avoid the storms; however, the crowd continued to revel amid the revered artwork, soaking in the vibrant abstract storytelling of RETNA’s Brimstones.
The exhibition was also the debut launch for my new art venture, Artrinity, along with my business partners Joyce Goss and Kenny Goss. After months of conversations and a visit to L.A. to meet Lewis at his downtown studio, the culmination of creativity produced an intriguingly unique perspective on the artistic activity of Marquis Duriel Lewis; RETNA.
Known for his hieroglyphic, text-based graffiti style, Lewis’s work is often seen on artful walls across the country. Such as the Wynwood Walls in Miami, as well as the streets of Los Angeles—Craig’s restaurant on Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood Library and San Vincente Boulevard. His work is well collected by Hollywood celebrities and art patrons alike, including collaborations with fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel. In 2015, RETNA collaborated with Justin Beiber for the album cover of Purpose, for the Black Panther movie he created set-designs, and the Kennedy Center commissioned work for an opera. RETNA, is a rare breed of artist, truly catapulting his career from the streets of Los Angeles as a graffiti artist to world-renowned fine art artist.
Dovetail Mortises & Peluca Grande: This current exhibition, which features paintings of abstract expressionism on canvas and works on paper, is a profound respite from his methodical text work. Inspired by his recent encounters of mentoring kids, Lewis wanted to work in a looser style, throwing away the confinements of linear text, instead, absorbing a child-like approach to brushstrokes and creative freedom. During one of our conversations, he shared with me his inspiration, “They come with a fascination of wanting to be like a child or wanting to paint like one. I’ve been trying to paint like them ever since I’ve been working with them, and I’ve found it very difficult. They have this absolute freedom, and they don’t have these restrictions that we put on ourselves as adults with all our emotional baggage. I’ve become very linear with the text-based work; it has to look a certain way. And every time I would paint with these kid’s they would have this looseness, they have this amazing ability to be loose, to be free. It took me a very long time to get there.” This collective of work, never exhibited before, presents a fresh viewpoint for Lewis as he establishes new artistic boundaries.
Most all the works on canvas and paper feature Brimstones—a title bequeathed to characters known to Lewis. Whether they are friend or foe, each abstract portrait is expressed with lashings of vigorous brushstrokes and markings committing the viewer to an emotional conversation, much like the repertoire of Lewis’s direct relationship with each subject.
I’ve admired Lewis’s work for many years, so for me, it was quite the experience to work closely with him, curating this exhibition as my first curatorial endeavour. Along the journey, it was a pleasure to work with Jess de la Hunty and to get acquainted with Lana Carlson. Special thanks to my good friend Annika Cail, and April and Jeff Manson, who connected me with Lewis. And thank you to Angeline Urie for introducing us to Paul Chevalier of Chateau d’Esclans for providing delicious servings of Rock Angel for the opening evening.
Thank you to our friends and supporters who braved the wretched thunderstorm to attend the exhibition opening. Sharing the evening with us to name only a few, Erin Cluley, Melissa Enrique, Brian Gibb, Marisa Howard, Jane Humphrey, Jennifer Klos, JD Miller, Ana Pettus, Roni Proter, JM Rizzi, Shelly and Barry Rosenberg, Alysa Teichman, Joanne and Charles Teichman, Ben and Lee Trowbridge, David and Robyn Trowbridge, Lucrecia Waggoner, Kameron Westcott, Ree and Jason Willaford, and Eva and Hooman Yazhari.
The pop-up exhibition is open from October 10 to November 8 at The Goss-Michael Foundation. To see the complete works of art in more detail, visit: Artrinity.
Photos: Daniel Driensky