John Riepenhoff - Handler
Project ArtBeat gallery and TBC Status are pleased to present an exhibition of John Riepenhoff, prominent American painter and 9 Georgian artists of different generations, Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Levan Chogoshvili, Mamuka Japharidze, Tamo Jugeli, Nino Kvrivishvili, Sergei Parajanov (presented by Gamrekeli gallery, from Khatuna Melikishvili’s private collection), Ninutsa Shatberashvili, Leila Shelia and Zura Tsofurashvili (presented by Center for Contemporary Arts Georgia), who have been invited by the artist to collaborate with him on the exhibition. Riepenhoff whose artistic and curatorial practice’s main focus is creating a platform to show work by others and collaborating will be exhibiting his Handler series for the first time in Georgia.
Handler series act as illusionary sculptural easels that hold other artists’ work. They use the form of the lower half of Riepenhoff's body as portrait of the unseen support of art handlers, gallerists, patrons, friends, family, and employees of institutions. This project is the embodiment of the support structure for artists and the presence of the artist/curator occupying the role of both. The Handler series uses sculpture as a platform to promote and reframe artwork, exposes the unseen supports built into art systems, suggests a visual metaphor for transport and object circulation, and critically refocuses the values of production and authorship.
‘When I first met John in Miami December 2018 while both of us were exhibiting at NADA Miami I was amazed how John’s practice even as an artist was focused on giving a platform to others, supporting his local surroundings and mainly collaborating. All these being very dear to me and my way of living I decided to invite John to come and do a show in Georgia at Project ArtBeat to which he agreed to my greatest pleasure. For me the main aim was for John to himself invite the artists without much knowledge of the Georgian art scene and its existing networks. I am happy to see the result of three weeks of working on the show in Tbilisi and John meeting and seeing as many in the field as possible. For me the most important thing is that John managed to involve many people and turn this exhibition into a true collaboration project: one piece of work exhibited is a collaboration between two artists, Ketuta Alexi Meskhishvili and Levan Chogoshvili, one of the sculptures is being managed by CCA who will be rotating the works during two months of the exhibition, Edisher who was helping John with the production of the sculptures is also contributing with writing a piece about the exhibition and for the idea of including a historical work, I am inviting another gallery, Gamrekeli gallery, which symbolically is also our neighbour. What I hope is that this act of acquaintance and collaboration happening from both sides can be expanded even further than this one time exhibition.’ - Natia Bukia, Project ArtBeat co-founder.
“"Every man is an artist" - This well known phrase which already sounds cliché in the twentieth century interestingly becomes true for instance in the situation accompanying the Wisconsin artist and gallery owner John Riepenhoff at the Eliava market. Malkhaz, a welder hired by Riepenhoff there, realizing that the case relates to art tries to show creative initiative and smashes the strictly ordered measurements. Likewise Tbilisi taxi driver Arthur may annoy you with talking about his curatorial practice in the traffic jam on the way from Eliava to Gallery.
However, these Georgian classic examples of creative innovation are well expressed in a common definition: "Art is Life”. The idea of turning art into life (and vice versa) of course originates from the basics of painting and has a deeper aesthetic meaning. But to realize this philosophical thinking is not necessarily as clearly exemplified as it is in the case of the exhibition "Handler" by John Riepenhoff.
In the entrance of Project ArtBeat Gallery select a vantage from where you can simultaneously see multiple rooms, but most importantly select a spot with a view of Parajanov and Japharidze’s artworks. Parajanov tries to show the sacral theme in his dark red algae colour fabric piece using collage techniques filling the image plane not with painting, but with found objects. This method is principally different from the strict doctrine of the iconography and brings the artwork from irrational into reality which literally defines the entire concept of the exhibition.
The next step in the development of art according to this principle is Mamuka Japharidze’s work from the ROLEX series, where linguistic associations are shown in a painting which establishes new subjective aesthetics. At the same time, with the used of luxury frame, the work emphasis commercialization of art.
John Riepenhoff, who is simultaneously an exhibitor, curator and author of the show further intensifies the sense of realism with his own legs dressed in Levi’s jeans and Nike sneakers and brings the paintings from the walls further to the inner space. The perceptions of the three-dimensional objects are now possible also from the back, and in this way, we have the opportunity to get to know original facsimiles of the authors: Zura Tsofurashvili, Ninutsa Shatberashvili, Tamo Jugeli, Leila Shelia, Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili and Levan Chigoshvili, Nino Kvrivishvili.
The absolute majority of the artworks are abstract and with their presentation in the inner space or allegorically "life" the American artist continues on the development of the exhibition theme, which has been started by Mamuka Japharidze and Parajanov, which can be ‘a tree of life’.
If we make a reference with Roland Barthes, life is not only art, but it is also text and thus together with above mentioned Malkhaz and Arthur I am also participating in this exhibition with this text. Since modern texts can not only consume life but also the author, for this reason I will leave the space for my name empty“.
Photos by Angus Leadley Brown