Jose Rosales

My name is Jose Rosales. I am a Costa Rican artist who works with textiles and sculpture. 

My work consists of referencing media I find engaging, such as amateur gay pornography, government-issued documents and most recently, museum displays. I find that working with these types of images has made me appreciate their craft-like qualities and earnestness. For me, these niche pictures hold complex meanings that are worth exploring and relating to the systems in power. 

I have worked closely in residencies and exhibitions at local institutions such as TEOR/eTica and Museo de Arte Y Diseño Contemporáneo in Costa Rica. In 2019, I had my first international residency, which took place in Gasworks, London. During the residency, I became interested in museum culture as a whole but particularly in natural history collections and their problematic relationship with colonialism and narratives about the so-called new world.  I developed “Nuevas Personas”, an installation made of large textile prints and sculptures. Part of this project was influenced by a maternity display I visited at the Science Museum in London.

Currently, I am working in the Museum of Artificial History, a textile and sculptural project where I invent my own postcolonial fantasy natural history collection.

Follow my IG @chuncheschunches to get updates on the project.

The Museum of Artificial History

1. Hero I (2020). Machine sewn felt on cotton fabric. 300 cm x 160 cm.
2.  Untitled sculptures (2021). Plastic figurines, epoxy sculpt and acrylic paint. 

I began developing “The Museum of Artificial History“ due to my visits to the Natural History exhibition rooms of the Science Museum in London. This project consists of a series of large-scale two-dimensional textile works made of machine-sewn felt applique pictures placed on cotton fabric. It also features small sculptures of animal-like specimens made from epoxy sculpt and plastic figurines that I have been cutting up and reassembling into new creatures. 

During my visits to the Science Museum, I was fascinated by their exuberant and perfectly preserved taxidermy exhibition rooms. The displays feature picturesque painted landscapes and arrangements that simulate ecosystems. In contrast, Costa Rican collections do not have the same solemn feel. Due to weather conditions and lack of maintenance, the local taxidermy ends up looking less than dignified as time goes by — I find it just as charming. 

The existence of these places also builds a strong case for colonial prowess. I find that one-sided depictions of foreign wilderness may not come without its own problems. These collections have created pictures of non-western territories from a decidedly western point of view. The subjects have made me ask some questions: How did a stuffed polar bear make its way to the tropics? Why is there a tree filled with hundreds of dead iridescent hummingbirds in a British museum? My project finds its place between those knowledge gaps. 

Chimaera-like creatures and fictitious natural phenomena populate The Museum of Artificial History. I intend to imagine natural history unfolding differently by embracing the narrative aspect of the source material. Yet unseen life forms and associations between them serve as a metaphor for the artificial quality of carefully-staged natural history collections.