Barbie’s Legend lives on through the lens of Romy Querol

When I first saw some of Barbie’s photographs taken by photographer Romy Querol, the images captivated me and realised how current Barbie is and how it has come to symbolize consumer capitalism and is as much a global brand as Coca Cola.

It is quite extraordinary that an 11-inch- (29-cm-) tall plastic doll with the figure of an adult woman, introduced on March 9, 1959, invented by Ruth and Elliot Handler, owners of Mattel Inc. is still so current after nearly seven decades after her birth. Since her birth, her sexy body has incited controversy. They named her after their daughter, Barbara (full name Barbie Millicent Roberts).

In response to consumer demand, the Handlers and Mattel added a boyfriend for Barbie named Ken after the Handlers’ son. Ken was born in 1961. The release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the film which was acclaimed by most critics, Barbie and Ken were back in the world media.

Barbie has helped in the evolution of women. She has held over two hundred jobs, including air force pilot, robotics engineer, baby doctor, Mars explorer and president, even before a woman sat in the oval office!

Romy Querol’s Barbie series, is highly topical. Romy Querol, who was born in Barcelona and is based in Ibiza, has exhibited her work at art fairs such as Arco Madrid or Basel Hong Kong, in the Arab Emirates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the Qatar Cultural Centre in Doha, as well as in many galleries around the world. Her Barbie photographs are in private collections in New York, LA, Paris, London, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Montevideo, Mexico, Milan, Ibiza, Madrid, Barcelona, among others.

“The Plastic Sensuality of Pop Art”, an exhibition that has travelled the world since 2008, is a parable in which the artist invites us to reflect, through her Barbie portraits, on the contradictions of the world in which we live. “It takes a special ingenuity and a lot of visual delicacy to develop this transformation with a camera points out Roman Gubern – writer, communication historian, eroticist scholar and member of the New York Academy of Science – but Romy has a special magic for framing and lighting. She is thus capable of turning a doll into a sensual object of desire, knowing how to adapt eroticism and the art of suggestion like few others.”

For Romy Querol art can transform any object and give it a new meaning, so a plastic Barbie can be erotic as well as use the power of shapes to express her subjective spirit. Thus, that disparity between style and content becomes a parable that makes us think about the contradictions of the world in which we live. They have an ambivalence of meanings that make it a useful object for an artistic commentary on today’s world.

In the Barbie series of photographs, Romy has elaborated her own visual experiences, learned from her existential experiences, Her vision of the feminine universe. Much of her production unfolds in the register of the imaginary. Voyeurism is in the point of view of each one, not as much as what is perceived in an image in a photograph. Her photographs show a disturbing world, they respond to the desire to shape the same figure that represents the Teutonic ideal of beauty. And what fits with the image of the tamer woman, capable of handling herself with ease in all situations.

According to Diego Alonso-art advisor and dealer, “The interesting rhetoric of Romy Querol Soler´s works, precisely relies on her radical change of sense of Barbie’s symbology or of the origin of it. As a sign deeply rooted into the list of international pop culture objects, the artist plays with guided connotations to invert the concepts and to talk about something more contemporary, post-modern (or perhaps millennial), an idea of self-sufficiency and autonomy on desire becoming through double sense a contrasting game between solitude and communion with the world around us. The Doll as a plastic representation of femininity becomes a medium for transmitting the sexual feelings of a free woman in a carnal universe from where plastic and synthetic senses increasingly alienate us. Desire for the body, desire of human animality, seems subdued at an historic time when consumption´s amnesia focuses on physical well-being, sport, and good behaviour. Need for and desire are replaced by the hyper-logical whim and hyper-erotism, as if contemporary complete Freedom has made us slaves of our forced containment.

Barbie’s Legend lives on through the lens of Romy Querol and will do so for a long time. Of that, I know.

Please visit the artist website

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