The Materials make the Artist

Textile designer Gerardo Ruiz-Musi explores technology, the self, and the concept of truth with his exhibition at Further Marfa.

Text: Tom Osmond
Photography: Arnaud Montagard
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What ideas are behind your works exhibited in Marfa?

Well, the inspiration for my proposal that I sent for Anónimo is Japanese boro, which is like a kind of patchwork they do in Japan with very old fabrics. It’s a way to honour the art of disrepair and repair. That was the original idea. In the end, we didn't have time to cover the entire room with such a collage of textiles, so this was our interpretation.

What materials did you use?

All the pieces at Anónimo Marfa are made of wool that comes from Oaxaca, specifically from a place called El Vallede Teotihuacán, which is about 40 minutes from the center of Oaxaca. I got this wool from the people that live there, from the small communities famous for making rugs. I also hand-dyed the cotton in Mexico. It was important for me to use Mexican materials on these pieces, and I was drawn to them because of the interplay between textures, composition, and color. I started out painting when I was little, and I thought I was going to become a painter but for some reason I didn’t. I think of my work at Anónimo as a re-ignition of that early passion.

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“I thought I was going to become a painter but for some reason I didn’t.”

Why is Marfa significant to you?

Well it's my first time here and I've always heard different stories about Marfa. Now that I’m here, it feels like a sanctuary of sorts. I feel very comfortable with the slowness of this place. I really take my time when I sit down and start working on a piece. Especially coming from a place like Mexico City—with its traffic, noise, and pollution. Actually, one of the first things I noticed when I arrived here was the smell. It was such a nice, pure smell. I also think it’s a unique thing to have artists coming from Mexico to Texas and then supporting causes such as the Marfa Education Foundation, The Americas Foundation, and The Big Bend Sentinel, which are linking Mexicans and Americans.

How did the transition from fashion to art happen?

I think it came very organically. I thought I had made a few wrong turns in the past, which I now see weren't wrong--otherwise I wouldn't be here. One thing led to another, and to another, and now I'm here. And my experiences in fashion have informed me in my forward motion.

What are some of your other influences?

I feel very inspired by music. Sometimes I think of this series as musical pieces when I work on them--as layers. You know, when you're creating or listening to a musical piece, you have layers upon layers, and for some reason this was always coming into my mind—this layering when you're creating a song or a melody. And if you start deconstructing that song, you can put all these layers and instruments and elements in front of you and examine each part.

What are you working on next?

More tapestry works. I have an upcoming show in Mexico City that I’m very excited about.

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Is this a new period for you? Maybe you can also explain more of the process of creating these works?

Yes, I feel I’m entering a new creative period. It's a very organic process to create one of these works. I don't know if it's a process, but I have a very vague idea of what I want to see. I kind of decide the colors in the beginning and I start working, and literally it’s like, I finish one day and the next day I don't know what I'm going to be doing. Sometimes I use vinyl paint or acrylic paint depending on the textile. It's something that I really have to be very focused on. It really comes in the moment. It's feeling and intuition.

Do the pieces have names?

Yes. While I was creating, I was listening to music and for some reason I started writing down lyrics that stood out. And when they asked me to name each of the pieces, I thought, “I don’t know...One, two, three, four, five?” And then I saw the list of my notes and saw these phrases from songs that I was constantly repeating while working. The full series is called “A backwards march / A forward talk” and there’s one piece called “The Thread Unravels, a Merciful Release” after a song Jarvis Cocker wrote for Air. And I think Charlotte Gainsbourg did a cover of that song, called “Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping”.

Regarding the art industry, how do you negotiate having to sell your work and being commercial versus really having the space to explore your art?

For me, Anónimo worked perfectly. I'm basically a virgin in the art world—I haven’t had a gallery before or someone who could represent me, and this was really very helpful. Being anonymous also brings back the value of the art for itself. Nowadays, people just buy because it was made by this artist who's already selling pieces for millions of dollars. It's sad, but I think most people don't buy based on their emotional reaction to what they see. They're buying because this art advisor told them to buy this artist because it's going to be huge in the next two years. And I think that cheapens the art in a way. Anyway, being anonymous, people just come and see my art because they're just seeing the piece and not the name. It has been very helpful, especially nowadays as people are so snobbish about art. What’s attracting them to my art is a real connection with the piece.

“Being anonymous brings back the value of the art for itself.”