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Featured Project- RETNA’s American Revolutionaries

RETNA American Revolutionaries Ad CampaignWe first heard about Oishii Creative through the Ninja’s vs Luchas event they hosted during E3 in 2007. They sparked our interest again last year with a captivating campaign featuring NFL coaches’ personal musings on life, loss, and love of the game. What is perhaps most intriguing about this boutique is the path which led them to take on uncommon challenges, adapt to a changing industry, and drive projects with creative vision. In an era when ad dollars are down and economic uncertainty has set in, there’s no slowing these guys down. They credit their success to hand selecting key creative talent with backgrounds in brand development and strategy.

The recent campaign for the documentary series American Revolutionaries paired African American musical icons with the work of LA graff art muralist RETNA. Art Direction was provided by the Los Angeles based company Cathedral. While we immediately recognized the symbolism the campaign represented, we were surprised and delighted to see RETNA’s work getting this kind of national recognition. There are a number of parallels one could draw, RETNA being an African American/Salvadorian artist working to further the legitimacy of graffiti art and striving to establish his own legacy. When we asked for his impressions on the project , RETNA offered up the following, “These artists really broke new ground and gave voice to so many people. They struggled with many of the issues of their day breaking down barriers making it possible for my generation to have so many opportunities. Everywhere you look, their art has made such important contributions to our culture reshaping America’s past, present and future.”

A prominent member of the artist collective The Seventh Letter, RETNA has quickly become a Los Angeles icon. His signature typography draws comparisons to veteran graff artists like Chaz Bojorquez, with whom he frequently shows work. As a muralist RETNA’s work is instantly recognizable to most all Angelinos. The sheer reach of the American Revolutionaries ad campaign, with larger than life billboards in Houston, Chicago, and New York’s TIme Square brings his work to new audiences. We can only cross our fingers that these locals will embrace his cultural influence as we have here in LA.

We sat down to talk with OIshii Creative’s owner Ismael Obregon about his approach to design for the commercial world and this most recent project for Ovation TV.

Left: RETNA Right: Ismael Obregon of Oishii Creative

NB: What was it that drew you to RETNA specifically for this project?

IO: You need to look at what constitutes a revolutionary. What these musicians did for music RETNA does for the visual arts. Revolutionaries introduce new ideas into the culture at large, and in so doing help shape it. RETNA work embodies this sentiment.

NB: What we found most interesting is that these pieces in a way celebrate the work that RETNA has been doing in Los Angeles for 10+ years. It is rare to see commercial work which stays so true to the artist.

IO: Traditionally artists have had to conform to commercial applications this project represents the complete opposite. RETNA was given the freedom to work on his own terms and in his own element. This with the full endorsement of Ovation TV. Rather than being a curator, through this campaign, Ovation is acting as a sponsor of cultural innovation.

NB: There are countless commercial brands attempting to align themselves with a younger more hip audience. Artists are often used as a springboard connection to the “street” demographic. What makes this project different?

IO: RETNA really was our ideal for this project. In a way it was almost tailor made for him. We’ve followed his work for sometime and immediately recognized how powerful a connection this could be. Much of his early work was in appropriating fashion advertising with his signature line work. We saw an opportunity to align the historic figures in American Revolutionaries with RETNA’s iconizing style and his impact here in Los Angeles. In giving RETNA the creative license to really make these pieces his own he’s added depth and a cultural perspective we could never have anticipated. His choice to work on mural scale canvases really makes each piece truly unique.


NB: What was the core roll OIshii played in the creative process?

IO: Our primary roll was bringing two disparate worlds together. Street art is the cutting edge of cultural movement. The commercial world has financial resources and the ability to reach the masses. By partnering RETNA with Ovation TV, we were able to share something remarkable with millions of people.

NB: The Oishii approach to this campaign is so different from those that your run of the mill agency might propose. Did this change your creative process in any significant way?

IO: Sure, we could have done the entire project in photoshop. The significance of this project is it’s authenticity. At times it’s more difficult to anticipate where the journey will take you, but it opens up the possibility of something greater than you might have originally imagined.

NB: What’s your take on the roll of art in advertising?

IO: Art keeps ads relevant, it keeps them fresh. It exits for people when they come in contact with it.

Wall Translation:
We are the American Revolutionaries, the artists, the poets, the scribes and musicians. Rock N Soul, American Revolution of our people.

12 Responses to “Featured Project- RETNA’s American Revolutionaries”

  1. New Feature – RETNA’s American Revolutionaries | Neu Black Says:

    [...] out our latest feature. Featured Project – RETNA’s American Revolutionaries looks at the latest project by Los Angeles icon [...]

  2. aprocks Says:

    Happy to see the progress the rest of the world has achieved in finally realizing what a unique and amazing artist Retna is! Props all around!

  3. NIco Says:

    Why only black people?

  4. Alex Jones Says:

    The theme of this year’s american revolutionaries (show that the campaign promoted) was iconic african-americans musicians

  5. Alex Jones Says:

    really beautiful stuff – RETNA does great work – it’s great seeing the mix of old icons and new iconic illustration

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  8. Retna: American Revolutionaries « Says:

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  10. wooten Says:

    With impressive projects like this, I’m confused why Obregon and Oishii Creative feel compelled to take credit for so much work that wasn’t actually produced by them. It puts their entire body of work (and their portfolio) in question. I wonder how their actual clients would feel if they knew how much of their credentials were cooked. Oh well.

  11. Grafiko Says:

    true that

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