Photograph by Zach Sokol.

Who Is Ryder Ripps, Conceptual Artist and Kanye’s DM Buddy?

Fun fact: he came up with the packaging for Soylent!

by Emma Specter
Sep 18 2018, 3:02pm

Photograph by Zach Sokol.

As with many things Kanye, it began with a tweet.

“We don't ever need to be excited we need to just be,” the 41-year-old rapper, artist, and fashion designer gently reminded the universe on Monday. At first, the tweet appeared to be nothing more than Kanye's surreal reflection o' the day, the latest in his ongoing project to write a philosophy book on Twitter (a more worldly approach than previous Twitter musings, like 2015's immortal, “oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle”).

As the day wore on, Kanye invited his audience into the hallowed inner sanctum of his iMessages with one Ryder Ripps (ryder_ripps on Instagram), where the two artists discussed the dictionary definition of the word “excited” and the meaning of positivity before forming a gentleman's agreement to both tweet the exchange (peep that cordial mountain emoji and Kanye's formal request: “May I tweet this exchange?”).

But who is Ryder Ripps, the man who's been captured for all eternity exchanging mountain emoji with Kanye? We've put together a little dossier for those of you hoping to untangle this web of DM mystery.

He works at Donda, according to LinkedIn. A clue, a clue! Does this mean West and Ripps are actually colleagues, and this was no random stranger's DM-slide? After all, Ripps was behind the fake Kanye site WhoDat.Biz in 2012. Reached via email on Monday, Ripps declined to comment at length on the nature of his and Kanye's relationship, but he did tell GARAGE, "I can confirm that Kanye and I work together at Donda."

He came up with the packaging for Soylent. Ripps's minimal black text on white background is of a piece with Soylent's less-is-more approach.

He once titled an installation ART WHORE. In 2014, the Ace Hotel asked Ripps to be an artist in residence for a night, offering him a free room and $50 in art supplies. Ripps chose to use this bounty to pay “sensual masseuses” from Craigslist to draw for him, in order to illustrate the point that he was “being exploited as an artist.”

He recorded himself using Tinder for 50 minutes. Because 40 minutes just isn't enough, but 60 is far too much. Why does this art piece feel like something Ottessa Moshfegh would invent?

His 2017 Venice Biennale exhibit was titled Become A Slave. Ripps described the piece as a “virtual reality piece that engages the viewer’s entire body, placing them in the factory, on the assembly line, where the VR headset they are using is being produced.”

Could Ripps and Kanye be in touch because they're working together on a typically Rippsian piece about production in the art or fashion worlds? After all, Kanye's been on something of an artistic tear of late, announcing plans to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago (though the school has refuted it) and shouting out fellow Chicagoan artist Kerry James Marshall on Twitter. And then, of course, there are his sketches. Is a mixed-media VR collaboration with Ripps next?

kanye west
Ryder Ripps