Despite the figures’ obvious artificiality—angular limbs, foreshortened arms and skin- or furlike sheaths of pastel-colored paper—they appear uncannily human. In each of four photographs, the dolls pose on hands and knees, facing different directions, in rooms papered with looping strips of the same pastel-colored paper that forms the figures themselves. Loose (2008) depicts a mannequin in profile, the cavity of its head stuffed with smaller bits of paper. Like the series as a whole, this image evokes both anxiety and composure: Is the subject coming apart at the seams or in perfect union with its surroundings? A fifth photograph, Empty Cut Room (2008), depicts the room vacant, its festive decor in contrast with an abiding sense of desolation. As the title asserts, the inherent aggression, or sexuality, remains unfulfilled.
Osterloh, an American of Filipino heritage, completed these works while on a Fulbright in Manila. The pale blue and green, buttery yellow and cotton-candy-pink palette derives from necessity: these are the only hues in which colored office bond paper is available in Manila.
Rounding out the show were three black-and-white photographs of the mannequins in a cinder-block room. Each one kneels alone, paper fur flying, as if in the process of dissolution. Stripped of color, these quieter pictures resonate with Osterloh’s esthetic investigation into the integrity of the self.