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From Ruin to Resurrection: RETNA’s ‘Appetite for Destruction’ Redefines Art

Mid December 2023, Burgess Modern + Contemporary, in Fort Lauderdale, opens RETNA – “Appetite for Destruction”, a groundbreaking exhibition by the enigmatic street artist known as RETNA, launching December 2023. RETNA, celebrated for his unique visual language that synthesizes calligraphy with street-style graffiti, presents a provocative new series that redefines the act of creation. In a radical shift from tradition, RETNA – “Appetite for Destruction” showcases artworks that have been intentionally torn apart and then meticulously restored, an allegory of vulnerability and resilience.

From Ruin to Resurrection: RETNA's 'Appetite for Destruction' Redefines Art

RETNA, the enigmatic and pseudonymous street artist, has gained renown not only for his intricate and visually striking creations but also for his penchant for the unconventional act of destroying his own artworks. In a bold departure from the conventional notion of artistic preservation, RETNA deliberately engages in a process of self-destruction, transforming his pieces from static expressions of creativity into dynamic, ephemeral statements. This act challenges the commodification of art and questions the traditional boundaries of permanence and impermanence in the art world. By intentionally dismantling his own works, RETNA forces viewers to confront the transient nature of artistic expression, fostering a dialogue about the inherent vulnerability and fleeting beauty of both art and life. The destruction then restoring of his creations, through stitching and other means, becomes a performance in itself, inviting contemplation on the cyclical nature of creation, destruction, and the continual evolution of artistic identity.

Historically, RETNA’s work features a remarkable combination of typography and lettering in various scripts combined with hieroglyphs and Old English. Taking inspiration from Native American, Hebrew, Arabic and Egyptian histories, he arranges blocks of text according to intricate signals encoded with symbolic meaning. However, “Appetite for Destruction”, opening Dec. 2023, in Fort Lauderdale at Burgess Modern + Contemporary, methodically combines the juxtaposition of his sophisticated system of script with his bold departure from the ‘orthodox’ – manifested from his deliberate and engaging process of self-destruction. This manhandled physicalness transforms his pieces from static expressions of creativity into dynamic, ephemeral statements.

An artist of Salvadoran, Cherokee, Spanish, and African American ancestry, RETNA is iconized by coded linguistics of potent narratives that navigate the viewer through various historical epochs and cultural contexts. Recently, these compelling messages have evolved, manifesting physically through dynamic and assertive techniques such as slashing, gashing, and gouging. To then be stitched back up, like some ritualistic sacrifice, evidence of the devastation, the sutured rips and tears speak volumes of forgiveness, apologies, and vindications of regrets. More inner reflection than outer aggression, “Appetite for Destruction” affords the viewer a window into the artist’s quest for creation and redemption.

On one hand, RETNA’s self-destructive art is not only a challenge to the established norms of the art world but also a reflection of the continual evolution of artistic identity. By dismantling his own creations, RETNA refuses to be confined by a static style or a fixed identity. He embraces change and impermanence as integral aspects of his artistic journey. By embracing the destruction of his own works, RETNA invites viewers to witness not only the transformation of art but also the evolution of the artist himself.

On the other hand, this new act of slashing and tearing, then stitching and repairing, coupled with the act of painting itself transcends mere expression, becoming a therapeutic journey. His canvases are more than just visual spectacles; they are vehicles of healing, enabling him to navigate and process complex emotions. Through his distinctive artistic language, RETNA externalizes internal struggles, giving form and voice to feelings often challenging to express. This transformative process not only offers him personal solace and understanding but also resonates deeply with viewers. They may see reflections of their own experiences and emotions within his art, underscoring how RETNA’s work extends beyond aesthetic appeal to become a potent tool for both personal and collective healing.

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