both subvert the expectations of portraiture in distinct ways. A diptych of black-and-white pictures by Steinbach depicts the same striking woman—sporting a grey hoodie and a shaved head—from different angles. In the first, her body is tilted slightly, and she’s looking off-camera; in the second, she stares directly at the lens, as if the photographer has called for her attention. Individually, the photographs wouldn’t give much pause. Together, they constitute something quasi-cinematic and mysterious—an ordinary glance loaded with significance. Why capture these two moments in time? What came before, and what might come after?
Sepuya’s excellent studio portraits here are an interesting contrast. In most cases, we see only parts of male bodies, or reflections of them. Each image’s legibility is challenged by mirrors, gauze, or drapery that blocks a simple view. In Mirror Ground Study
(2016), a camera lens pokes through a wall of fabric, as a little phallic intrusion. Elsewhere, Sepuya shows us bare arms reaching into the frame, or the athletic, curved back of a nude man. These are erotic images, but ones that benefit from being abstract rather than explicit; they tease and hide. Closest in spirit to these photographs are ’s
assemblages, which are Plexiglas dioramas in which fractured views of the artist’s own body are layered, often to the point of confusion. Both Olson and Sepuya suggest that the only way photography can capture the physicality of being human is through side glances and peek-a-boos, everything suggestive and incomplete.