Walking by the booth of Chicago gallery Western Exhibitions at NADA New York, you might find yourself wondering if you are catching an art heist in action. Jeans and sneakers-clad legs stick out from underneath every canvas, leaving the viewer with the unnerving suspicion that these pieces are either being stolen from the booth, or perhaps less dramatically, in the process of being installed.
In reality, the unorthodox stands (which can also double as an easel) are the work of Milwaukee-based artist John Riepenhoff. The artist (who, in his spare time, also works as the co-owner of The Green Gallery) cast his own legs and clothed them in shoes and pants that he wore at various important points in his life. All the paintings hung on his leg/easel contraption are created by artists he has worked with, either as an assistant, in the case of Tyson Reeder, or as a dealer, in the case of Jose Larma. The paintings are sold separately; the “Stand” sculptures cost $3,000 each.
“There is a lot of support behind an artist,” said Riepenhoff, “and I wanted to play with that idea.” The artist has played many of those supporting roles himself: in addition to acting as a dealer and artist assistant, he has been an art handler and a gallery assistant for Gavin Brown. “There is this moment when you’re installing a show where you see all these paintings with legs — it’s a transient moment, and one that only a privileged few get to see,” he said. “I wanted to share it.”
— Julia Halperin