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Masquerade, Long Exposures

Photo shows — good ones — crowd L.A.’s museums at present; two of modest proportions but great ambition should not be missed, even though they end this Sunday. In “Masquerade: Role Playing in Self-Portraiture,” the work of 30 photographers, all drawn from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, has been collated to examine a shutterbug syndrome: pretending to be someone/thing else before the camera. Saving money on models? Nope. Cultivating perversions — voyeurism, exhibitionism, transvestitism, ad infinitum — is just as human as the desire to cut corners. The early pioneers of the medium, especially the orient-infatuated French, were wont to get up like exotics. (Nadar’s Zouave is less suave than stout.) More recent lensomanes, especially in our polymorphous postmodern period, stretch identity even further, examining, satirizing and upending social and sexual roles. Warhol and Mapplethorpe give good drag; Cindy Sherman plays the ingénue acting out Hitchcock and Truffaut roles. And for a really good time, call on Pierre Molinier — a postwar “outsider photographer” whose startlingly convincing one-(wo)man burlesque act swims in painterly chiaroscuro — and Yasumasa Morimura, who autometamorphoses into famous art figures (preponderantly distaff).

After the heady richness of “Masquerade,” the sequences comprising “Long Exposures: Contemporary Photo-Essays” (also from LACMA’s coffers) cleanse the palate, their astringency bringing forth the matter-of-fact, even reportorial approach these stalkers of landscape and human poignancy prefer. Even the people-centric documents of Anne Fishbein (Russia) and Vincent Cianni (Brooklyn) avoid making icons of their subjects, keeping them part of the story, part of an overall experience that in the hands of Andrew Freeman becomes a sideways glance at history through buildings (Manzanar), and in those of Sant Khalsa, Simon Norfolk and Nic Nicosia (wielding a video camera) becomes a meditation on place and space. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Tues. & Thurs., noon-8 p.m.; Fri., noon-9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; thru Jan. 7. (323) 857-6000.

—Peter Frank

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