ryder ripps instagram paintings



As mentioned in an earlier post, these paintings come out of a larger project of Ryder Ripps', where he is critiquing a fashion model's Instagram account: it's all explained step by step on this Tumblr he created for the project, titled On Ho.

Let's jettison all the anti-Instagram backstory -- I know many folks who adore Instagram but Ripps didn't have to convince me that it sucked -- and just look at the above as jpeg-painting-things.

First, you have the self-posted photos of the fashion model Ripps keyed in on. Her name is Adrianne Ho and she makes money posing for various brands. So you have whatever decisions she made for the poses, angles, cropping, background, etc. Then, you have whatever Instagram is adding -- "arty" filters that soften contours, tweak colors, and play with the lighting. Ho's work looks completely professional by the time she and the Instagram algorithms are through.
Then, you have Ripps' alterations using a multi-touch interface on a smartphone. This is pretty conventional Photoshop-style dragging and smearing to create funhouse-mirror distortions. (Ripps compares his efforts to Bacon and De Kooning but that's just hubristic retcon -- retroactive continuity -- as almost anything can be compared to a Famous Modern Master.)
Ripps' digital reworkings are then given to a painter-on-canvas: Ripps says he hired "Jeff Koons' assistants" but I'm guessing it was one of those mainland China shops that will render any image as an oil painting.
Then, the paintings are photographed and posted as web-friendly jpegs. Ripps says he got many likes for these painted images.
It's this final stage, what you see above, that's the most intriguing. George Condo meets James Rosenquist, with Instagram ephemera as subject matter. Rosenquist worked as a sign painter, so he was essentially using himself as one of those Chinese painters-for-hire, putting art quotes around his own manual technique. Instead of billboards as Pop Art subject matter, it's Instagram. The fast, easy distortions of the multitouch, where algorithms make many decisions regarding what is to be smeared and how (responding to the minimal input from human gestures) leave pockets of digital blur and mush. The painters-on-canvas must then make additional decisions of how to render the distortions for maximum polish and closure. Then the painting is lit and photographed. Thus, a sequence of banal techniques leads to a satisfyingly surreal result.

Addendum: One issue not covered is the scale of the painting/jpeg/things. I like them at 650 pixels wide and wouldn't much care about seeing them this big (link to show scale, recoiling slightly at the dumbass high fives Ripps is getting from the Facebook/Instagram net art community -- how about upping the quality of the discourse just a hair). See more on artisanal photorealism.

rhizome today, instagram corny-core, non-accountability

Rhizome.org's Community Manager Zachary Kaplan has brought some needed zip to the website with a series of daily posts linking to and discussing various web content he is following. Sometimes Rhizome's editor Michael Conner makes contributions. How often does Conner weigh in, and in what proportion to Kaplan's blurbs? What types of things are they covering? Unfortunately I can't tell you, or I can tell you only in the most vague and general way, because they delete the posts the next day.
Kaplan says the content isn't lost -- he is planning to have a "best-of" post each month -- but the record that's created is entirely at his (or Rhizome's) discretion.
In a way, this solves a problem Rhizome has always had: is it a museum, being studiously neutral and objective in picking the most important "internet art," or is it a magazine, with a feisty and opinionated voice about what people are doing online (whether art or not)?
Kaplan's posts give us the pleasures of the latter but regrettably throw out the baby of a permanent record with the bathwater of studied faux-neutrality. Why should a record be treasured? It's a way to keep score -- one of the few honors for a so-called internet artist. Also it keeps the writers honest. If you think your words might trip you up a few years later you write them more carefully.

Below is an example of some of Kaplan's writing, from the Friday, August 22, 2014 Rhizome Today post. By Monday it will be gone. This sucks for Ryder Ripps, whose project Kaplan is discussing. Maybe Ripps will make the monthly best-of, maybe he won't. Do readers get a say in this? Maybe, or maybe not. Comments are deleted along with the daily posts (I tried a few days back). You can always email, or hit up the Rhizomers on commercial social media channels.

Instagram Corny-Core
Ryder Ripps is thinking about Instagram's "mawkishly sentimental tone to everyday common things," a heavily filtered, hypermoody selfie-lifestyle confluence. He takes Adrianne Ho's Instagram account as its apotheosis, and it's no coincidence that Ho's is a sponsored feed, tied to the clothes she's given to model.

I've been aware of a profusion of variously branded content on Instagram for a while now, a result of friends working in the lifestyle publishing world — food, in particular, is a good way to see how this, pardon the pun, sausage is made. Brand diffusion on Instagram takes different forms. There is that which is obviously sponsored, as in paid (to the social network) ads that pop into feeds, or clearly demarcated sponsored 'editorial content' with brand @ing on 'independent' accounts. There is also a shadow economy of soft sponsorship by way of freebies then imaged by trusted native accounts. What Ryder is thinking about is what I see on a daily basis.

One reason that Instagram is so fertile for both styles of advertising is that its discoverability is so horrible — like its owner, Facebook, Instagram closes your feed in on itself, with very little invitation to explore different Instagram experiences, different Instagram worlds, different people. The Explore tab used to filter in all sorts of weird images that were trending, but as of late last year, it now displays things your friends are liking. Vine — wonderful, amazing Vine — in contrast, is all about discoverability, randomness, and blur. One powerful mechanism here is the ReVine, which allows anyone to republish anything. Instagram instead is personal, owned, and hermetic. A closed world where one can fully know and expect another's audience is a world built for advertising.


Does Ripps' project deserve a permanent, implied thumbs-up validation as important internet art on Rhizome's front page, or is it half-amusing, ephemeral, daily link fodder? Kaplan hedges his bets here. Ripps' slide show on Tumblr, On Ho, commenting on the closed loop style of image evaluation of the popular Facebook-owned Instagram application/database/website/thing, would seem to have the right blend of front page critique and cheek. But perhaps it falls short of that, and is only a curmudgeonly rant with elements of dashed-off creativity (Ripps's smartphone defacements of Instagram images and painted versions of the defacements that may or may not be done by Jeff Koons' assistants -- more on those paintings later). Also, Kaplan wants to get in his own point of view, which is that Vine (a rival application/database/website/thing owned by Twitter) is a better, less hermetic, less commercial experience (and therefore more innately art-like?) than the product Ripps is critiquing. As a Rhizome editorializer, this is within bounds, as a curator, it's probably overstepping. Imagine a museum wall-label that suddenly goes off on an artist for deconstructing the wrong thing. Whatever problems this raises, rest assured they will be not be discussed, because by the time you've wrapped your mind around them the post will be gone and we will be on to something else.