Getting Into Face . . . after face after face | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Getting Into Face . . . after face after face 

A new book and exhibit show JoJo Baby and Sal-E playing advanced dress-up

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Butterflies, Getting Into Face

Butterflies, Getting Into Face

Bernard Colbert

Legendary club kid, doll maker, makeup artist, costumer, and penis-sculpture enthusiast JoJo Baby costars with his clubbing companion, Sal-E, in Bernard Colbert's lush new coffee-table book Getting Into Face (Schiffer). The anonymous preface sounds pretentious saying, "Call them what you will, but they are artists—and their bodies and their lives are their canvas." Yet the statement holds up awfully well: the pair apply a powerful amount of artistry to themselves.

The book offers more than 100 photos by Colbert, who documented the duo over the course of five years as they'd prepare for performances at a weekly dance party. Most were shot in Baby's apartment/studio at the Flatiron building. Still, there are few process photos here—little showing faces getting put on and lots showing the two subjects decked out for a surreal night on the town. It's pretty spectacular.

Themes can be eclectic even within a single image. Here's Sal-E looking like a freaky ghoul-nun and JoJo with an airplane on his head. Here's Sal-E in RoboCop drag and JoJo looking like a lucha libra wrestler with an industrial sheen. And here's Baby as a jolly leprechaun with an orange fringe of beard and a tiny doll's body that looks as if it's being manipulated from behind, ventriloquist style, by an evil gypsy Sal-E. Like their subjects, Colbert's portraits are playful, blazingly creative, and exceedingly hard to summarize. The book-release party, which opens an exhibit running through October 1, should be well worth checking out.

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