OFF BALANCE A part of Frole's installation. [Photo by Greg Cook]
Among the handsome Washington Street storefronts of AS220's renovated Mercantile Block building, with their neo-old-timey signs, is the residents' entrance to the building. It is against AS220's religion to leave any space empty that can be filled with art. So the lobby is the AS220 Resident Gallery, which occupants of the building take turns filling with their stuff.
Of late, Jacqueline Frole has covered the golden mustard walls with 107 or so framed pictures for an installation she's dubbed the "Family Room" (131 Washington St, Providence, through May 27; ask at AS220's Project Space for someone to let you in the locked door).
The quantity grabs your attention. As you look closer, you find Frole's pictures are fashion and advertising and celebrity photos that she has altered by sticking on two extra heads or a spare set of lips or an arm emerging like a third leg from a lady's pants. I'm partial to the ones with extra limbs. The extra facial features feel obvious, too just-pasted-on. But at first glance, you almost don't notice that, for example, two pouty models each have four legs. Frole's additions are relatively seamless. And then there's the joke on the original photos about how leggy these ladies are.
At times, the effect is to amplify the sexual come-on of the images — like the blonde lady in all denim who now has a second crotch and legs bending upward in what has to be some sort of daredevil yoga pretzel position. At times, it sort of suggests motion, like the four-legged lass dashing across a beach in her creamy dress and cardigan sweater. To a photo of a bikini-clad surfer, Frole adds an extra section of arm on each side giving the woman an incredible wingspan, which is both funny and serves to emphasize the amazing stick bug physique of most of the bodies here.
All of this surrealism is witty and entertaining. What elevates it beyond your usual photo collage wiseassery is a pair of chairs. Frole doubles the length of the armrests of a wooden, spindle, curved-back chair so that they reach far forward. A wooden rocking chair gets an extra pair of armrests on top of its first set and a second back rising from the top of the first chair back. The thing rises upward like the seat for a granny with short legs, a very long torso, and (maybe) multiple arms.
Resting on the chairs are, respectively, a teddy bear with two heads and a teddy bear with four arms. Attached to the wall is a lamp. And then stuck on its bottom is another copy of the same lamp, but upside-down as if it were its reflection.
In other words, Frole continues the multiplying and mirroring and twinning of the collages by extending it into the actual world. Your eyes don't quite want to believe that it's real, but the insistent physical truth of it keeps smacking you in the head. It can throw you off balance. It's a good feeling.