Spend enough time on social media these days and photographic self-portraiture can start to seem banal. The group show “Mirror, Mirror” is a rebuttal and reminder that this remains a fruitful, fascinating art form.
Take the artist Tommy Kha’s “Guise Like Me” (2021). In the largest of three images, what looks like a cutout of Kha lies with his back to the camera, holding a mask of his face. In a smaller photo, the face reappears over the shoulder of Kha’s mother, who seems haunted by an old picture of herself. Kha uses playful artifice to get at an emotional truth: the fractured layering of identity.
Ilona Szwarc takes a similar approach, with images that depict her look-alike turning into a werewolf-type creature. The woman appears in colorful, lavish settings, and it’s unclear if she’s initiating the transformation or if it’s happening to her. In “She was unsexed as a doll” (2019), the woman’s expression issues a kind of challenge: Is this a nightmare or a fairy tale?
Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s photographs are more genuine but not more straightforward. He captures himself and friends in the studio, frequently nude and intertwined, with faces hidden or obscured by cameras. There’s a push-pull between casualness and formality, what’s hidden and displayed — a tension that Whitney Hubbs also seems to aim for, although in the two pieces here, her conceptual grounding feels lacking.
What makes these works so striking is that they withhold as well as reveal. They deny the legibility often associated with photography (and selfies), instead offering deftly staged riddles.