With Furthermore, Jose Ruiz aims for more 'fluid' art market

By Jessica Dawson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2010

Washington, Jose Ruiz has returned . . . sort of. (Don't define him geographically, please -- the very concept of "place" gums up his fluidity, more in a moment.)

Since December, Ruiz -- now 35, he's an artist, curator, resident of Queens and erstwhile head of Decatur Blue, that with-it art collective that kicked around D.C. in the late 1990s -- has been plotting an art world revolution. His mission: standing up for the art world's unconnected and underfunded while undermining the Chelsea art mafia.

Ruiz calls his three-pronged attack "Furthermore," which is both a business venture and a state of mind.

Phase 1 is a print shop, which opened quietly on Seventh Street NW two weeks ago and inaugurates the Furthermore insurgency. The Furthermore mission, written by Ruiz, reads like a Communist Manifesto for art nerds.

There's: "The system that governs the commercial art world does so by enforcing a language of inaccessibility and speculated value" and "predetermines who the participants are and whom the artists will have to work through in order to participate."

That translates to "you've gotta know someone named Larry, Massimiliano or Tobias to get in the game." (As in Gagosian, the megadealer; Gioni, the New Museum curator; and Meyer, the Sotheby's contemporary art bigwig.)

And there's this: "The nonprofit system is fogged by bureaucracy, the constant begging of money and a sense of conservatism that is instilled by their funders."

Ruiz would know. His four-year tenure as gallery director and curator for the Bronx River Art Center, which he concluded earlier this year to devote his efforts to Furthermore, taught him all the depressing news he needed to know.

His solution? Take the reins of "three intrinsic artistic functions that are compromised" and address each one. To his count, that's "production, dissemination and demonstration."

The Furthermore factory -- Phase 1: "production" -- is a 750-square-foot inkjet print-making studio. Here, the manufacture of artists' prints will be managed day-to-day by Bridget Sue Lambert, 41, whom Ruiz recently pilfered from Annapolis's Aagpa Editions, where she'd worked for nine years.

Furthermore's print shop aims to undercut the prices of area entities -- Chrome, Vivid Solutions -- and cater almost solely to artists. The other artist-tailored outfit in town, pioneering printmaker David Adamson's Adamson Editions, works with a roster of megawatt Chelsea insiders -- Chuck Close, Roni Horn, the Starn twins -- that fall well outside Ruiz's target market. The money Ruiz raised to get Furthermore's print shop off the ground -- $50,000 in startup costs, including the purchase of a $7,000 Epson Stylus Pro 9900 inkjet printer and $40,000 to fund a safety net and Lambert's pay -- might equal the market price of one or two of Adamson's pictures.

The art market problems of inequity and insiderness aren't new. All manner of DIY entities have sprung up nationwide to proffer alternative, artist-run spaces that counter the insular culture of Chelsea and the Lower East Side. The difference between Ruiz and some of the others may be the soundness of his business plan.

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