about the exhibition
Mexico City, Mexico
July 24–October 19, 2003about the artist
Daniela Rossell was born in 1973 in Mexico City, Mexico, and studied the performing arts before beginning classes in painting at the National School of Visual Arts (UNAM) in the early 1990s. Through a variety of media—sculpture, painting, performance, and photography—she has consistently explored issues of wealth and excess, body image and beauty.
While in college Rossell developed a photographic project that poignantly confronts these issues—the series became known as Ricas y Famosas. Over the years she has taken thousands of images that feature the (mostly) young and blond nouveau riche of Mexico in their opulent homes. Rossell began by taking photos of her extended family to help pass the time she spent in their world. She became intrigued with these documents of how people choose to live and present themselves, and soon broadened her scope from her relatives to their friends.
The project continued until 2002, when the artist published a book collecting over seventy images. For Rossell the works are most potent in this intimate, portable form. The viewer is able to sit on her own couch, flip back and forth between images, and reflect upon how signs of taste and prosperity differ depending on class and culture.
Daniela Rossell has had solo exhibitions at the University of Salamanca, Spain (2003); Greene Naftali Inc., New York, NY (2000); and Galeria OMR, Mexico City, Mexico (1996). Group exhibitions include: Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values at Kunst-Werke Berlin, Germany (2003) and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY (2002); Sublime Artifical at La Capella, Barcelona, Spain (2002) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2002). Rossell’s work can also be seen this summer in the 2003 Prague Biennial. The artist is currently based in Mexico City, Mexico.
about the exhibition
Ricas y Famosas features an array of twenty color photographs from Daniela Rossell’s provocative series. The large-scale images are shown unframed and adhered directly to the wall. Unlike their mode of presentation, the people and homes captured are anything but modest: vaulted ceilings drip with chandeliers and marble floors are dotted with animal skins and gilded furnishings.
Confronting the viewer from these spaces are the women and girls who reign over them. Whether reclining on couches or lying on floors, full bosoms and made-up eyes respond to the camera’s dare to attract. The series could be thought of as a record of the moment—the sitters adopt the poses and postures frequently seen on the pages of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and other fashion magazines. While commercial products are not the focus, these women do seem to be in the business of selling something: perhaps themselves and their lifestyles.
The lifestyles featured appear particularly extreme when juxtaposed with the pervasiveness of Mexican poverty. Against such a backdrop, the series becomes a study of affluence, taste, consumption, and greed—so charged that some in Mexico City feel the works have challenged the taboo against critiquing the upper classes. Does the critique transcend cultural specificity? San Antonio is close enough to the border that some may be familiar with the controversial nature of the riches and status of those pictured. How does the series resonate differently in Texas than it has in Mexico or would in Ohio?
The images in Daniela Rossell’s Ricas y Famosas provide a window into a world that many will never enter. The palatial houses and enticing women raise questions about wealth and identity in Mexican culture. What are the women trying to convey about themselves? Is there a culturally specific line between honesty and ostentation?