Photos, Postcards and Ephemera From the Home of John Rininger, Chicago, IL

In the middle of November, 2006 artist John Rininger was found in his apartment - dead at the age of 45.

I only had the good fortune of meeting John a couple times. On our second meeting we spoke for several hours. His interests were far-reaching and he was a rapid-fire conversationalist. He had so much to offer and I'm grateful I got to experience his intellect, generosity and kindness, if only twice.

The second and last time I saw John was in around 2001. He was in a period of great personal turmoil.

A friend of mine called me at my job and said: “This guy who lives next door is throwing away a ton of books and papers and you really need to come up here and see this stuff because I think a lot of it would interest you.” I went straight from work.

The stuff in the alley turned out to belong to John Rininger. He was leaving everything behind except for a giant scroll that was his great creative obsession and a prized stamp-perforating machine that he asked my friend to hold for him.

While looking through his stuff, John came out and I realized I met him several years before. He invited me up to his apartment. The place was in a horrifying state. He told me to take whatever else I wanted. Some of the things I took kind of reeked of cat piss. John planned to leave the apartment unlocked for his friends to come over and take anything they liked. He asked me hopefully: “Do you think I will get my security deposit back?” I couldn’t bear to tell the truth. “Oh, I think you’ll get most of it.”

In addition to a few old ‘zines and comics, I took a small box of postcards, found photos, personal ephemera, and photos John had taken including some that appeared to be documentation of art projects.

That was the last time I saw John. I think we exchanged mailings once after this - I have some artist stamps he mailed me - but that was all.

While doing some much needed cleaning in my own apartment, I rediscovered the box of John’s things that I saved. I looked through it for the first time since his death and was struck all over again by the compelling array of images and interests.

The collection consists of 180 items. I have scanned only the fronts of postcards, photos and papers. Objects that were obtained in plastic sleeves were scanned in their plastic sleeves. People who knew John will recognize him in some of the photos. The photos are presented in no particular order.

It will quickly become apparent that John had a curiosity about some very dark material, including no shortage of images about Nazi Germany. Though some of these things are not what I'd normally rush to archive, this project felt like an 'all or nothing' endeavor and I have included everything, unedited. I can find no discernible ideology at work in John's world except for an embrace of serendipity, chaos, and decay.

If you would like to view these objects in person or need to use any of these materials for an exhibition, book or project on the work of John Rininger, please contact me.

The entire collection can be seen here:

Marc Fischer: marc [at] publiccollectors [dot] org
December, 2009

Examples of John Rininger's work:
A PDF of a publication with a helpful introduction by Stephen Perkins:
A low resolution video of John's scroll: