RETNA’s Hallelujah World Tour Opening, NYC

Last night I had the chance to check out the opening of RETNA’s Hallelujah, presented by Valmorbida (the people behind Richard Hambleton’s show last year) and curated by RVCA’s PM Tenore in a giant pop-up space on Manhattan’s west side. RJ saw the show in the process of being set-up, and the finished product was certainly spectacular (not to mention really crowded. Cue me getting nervous as people bumped into the work). The artist’s glyphic pieces were presented on a series of very large mediums – most were canvas, some were ink on handmade paper, and a few had plaster (I think) letters rising out of the piece itself. Five sculptures in the middle of the room spelled out a monumental RETNA.

What the script on the pieces spelled out, I’m not entirely sure  – but the effect was certainly cryptic, not to mention really beautiful. Others seemed to think so too, as the vast majority of the work had already been sold by the show’s opening. Like a lot of his other stuff, the pieces subsumed the space, covering nearly the entire wall from floor to ceiling, and in the dark of the warehouse, it was completely immersive.

When I could get close enough to a piece to really see it, the intricacy of his process was apparent, with the handmade paper and ink pieces, the textured paint on canvas, or his evolving use of negative space.

The sculptures I mentioned before, particularly their surroundings, were the only parts that may have taken away from the general strength of the show. Scattered around/under/on top of the sculptures were ropes, industrial pallets, and empty paint cans. Whether it was about paying homage to the process, or likely to his more graffiti-oriented beginnings, the props seemed unnatural in the space, particularly in the whole glamorous-company-collaboration context. If anything, it made me want to see his work outside of this setting, or at least caused me to question what it means, and whether its good, bad (or both) to move from street to a show like this.

Hallelujah will be making two more stops, in Venice and London, as it completes its tour. You can check out the New York show at 560 Washington St. in the West Village. Also, if you haven’t seen it, make sure to watch the epic video that accompanies the show.

Photos by Frances Corry