By Lea Lion
When residents of Echo Park woke up on Tuesday morning, there was a cryptic message looming over the neighborhood.
The graffiti artist Retna had transformed a billboard on Sunset Boulevard where it crosses over Glendale Boulevard. into a massive mural. It featured his signature script in bright red and blue brushstrokes complete with paint drips.
Marquis Lewis (or Retna in the graf world) is known for his hieroglyphic-like calligraphy that combines elements of foreign alphabets – Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Native American — and for the many murals he has painted in Los Angeles. In addition to the Echo Park billboard, Retna painted a stunning gold on black image on Beverly and graphic black and white script on La Cienega, to name a few.
His other recent coups include murals at MOCA’s graffiti blowout “Art in the Streets,” a wall at the West Hollywood Library, the façade of the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the tail of a luxury airplane that has been referred to as the most expensive street art in the world.
The Echo Park billboard, which appeared a few days before the opening of Retna’s show at a Los Angeles gallery, raises some questions. Is the artwork a legal mural? Is it part of a larger series of billboard murals around Los Angeles? And what, if anything, does the piece say?
But for now, at least, we can say: Goodbye weight-loss ad. Hello art world heavyweight.