Review: Mutant Salon at Commonwealth & Council: Let the demented makeover begin

Still from "Exorcises," 2016, by Mutant Salon.

Still from “Exorcises,” 2016, by Mutant Salon.

(Ruben Diaz)

Mutant Salon’s art installation at Commonwealth & Council is a hot mess — in a good way. Set up as a grotesque beauty salon, it includes stations for haircutting, makeup, nail art and tattooing.

The stations are augmented with seating, mirrors, brushes and other tools embedded in fleshy, alien, tumorous forms. Many of the tools also make magical sound effects when you wave them around. It’s like grooming yourself in a demented cartoon, both entrancing and nightmarish.

The core members of Mutant Salon are Young Joon Kwak, Marvin Astorga and Alli Miller, but the project includes a large cast of collaborators who appear in two videos. The first documents a ritualistic group performance involving dancing and body painting; the footage has been processed so it’s often hard to tell where one body ends and the next begins.


The second, “Exorcises,” parodies 1980s aerobics videos, replete with leotard-clad vixens jumping, scissor-kicking and thrusting to a pounding beat. Yet the performers are of indeterminate gender, sweaty, with crazy, mussed hair and horribly misapplied makeup. The vibe is equal parts Jane Fonda workout and Paul McCarthy’s “Sailor’s Meat (Sailor’s Delight),” a 1975 video in which he writhed around in indeterminate fluids wearing a blond wig and lingerie.

This is the dark side of beauty, which is really just the dressing up of the messiness of sex. By bringing it back to this chaos, unmoored from convention, Mutant Salon transforms what it means to be beautiful.

Commonwealth & Council, 3006 W. 7th St., Suite 220, Los Angeles, (213) 703-9077, through Feb. 27. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.