New Frontiers in the Recent Work of Reena Tolentino

Los Angeles artist Reena Tolentino, RT, is making innovative strides into the art world’s newest sector, NFTs, while staying true to her practice as a painter.

Reena Tolentino, better known by her moniker RT, is a rising star in the Los Angeles art scene. The Philippine painter, now based in California, began making waves through the social media success of her acrylic works of remembrance featuring the late Kobe Bryant, Mac Miller, and Lis “Left Eye” Lopes have propelled RT into a rising career as a visual artist. As the pandemic swept the world, RT refused to back down; she continued to create, exhibit, and build her career. As she trailblazes through the art world her recent ventures prove that she is ready to explore the new horizons of the industry.

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Beyond the White Wall – RT and the NFT

Now RT is making moves on the latest trend in the art world, the NFT. The non-fungible token (NFT) has presented the industry with boundless new opportunities for the creation and sale of all modes of art in the form of these unique digital items. RT’s transition into this world comes as an evolution of one of her most successful projects. A collaboration with Hip Hop royalty Run DMC and 12 On 12 Vinyl where she added her own ‘colorwaves’ and RT touch to the iconic Run DMC logo. Now they are working together again to create and buy her first dozen NFT licensing deals as an extension of this project.

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While the realm of NFTs has become the art world’s digital wild west, RT is thrilled to have the support of her management and legal team as she takes on this new challenge. “Oftentimes, we forget that art has a business aspect to it,” she notes when discussing this new body of NFT works, “Brands want to commission me to do lots of creating the art, minting the art, establishing the wallet, and so many things that don’t have to do with art.” Positioned for success she is eager to expand her brand as it translates into the digital.

Overview Effect – A Look at RT’s Recent Series

When she returns to the physical realm to continue her practice as a painter, she still does not quite return to Earth. While RT has become known for her portraits of notable icons, athletes, and musicians her latest series transports us into outer space. The Astronaut Series is one of RT’s newest set of works. Her distinctive style creates exaggerated portraits of these space explorers that are abstracted and collaged into quantum entanglements where the dark isolation of space is contrasted by a chaotic vibrancy.

While the astronauts hover above us in the vacuum of space, the work is surprisingly grounded in the relationships that occur here, on Earth.

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“I was intrigued by how people from polar opposites of the world could meet and become attracted to one another. The question arises: What makes someone so attached to a stranger in a romantic way? You visit a country, become attracted to someone you meet at a cafe, and when you part ways and go back home, you put in effort to continue working towards a great connection. How do we find soulmates or twin flames? We meet so many people daily, but makes us dive deeper into that one person over the rest? I believe in serendipity. The tiny choices we make that we think are futile - such as making the decision to take the bus or hop in an Uber - can lead to some type of destiny when it comes to romance, friendships, and business relationships.”

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The layered work leaves the viewer perpetually excavating meaning as new words, images, and symbols reveal themselves, arising from the void. As her viewers dig through the intricacies of the work they too begin to question the connections that are made in both the work and their own lives.

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RT’s work formulates new means of connection through methods of art making that both embody the traditional and push the boundaries of innovation. Whether she explores how atoms interact, how soulmates discover one another, or how information collides on the web, RT’s work continues to surprise her viewers with each new challenge she tackles. In RT’s own words, “We’re just getting started really.”

Images by Bruce Martin 

Text contribution by Erman Baradi 

To learn more about these works and more by Reena Tolentino, RT, follow her on instagram [link].


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