Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective
June 29–October 3, 2012
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective is the first U.S. mid-career survey of this important Dutch artist’s work in photography and video. Dijkstra came to prominence in the 1990s with her celebrated Beach Portraits, large-scale color photographs of children on the verge of adolescence posed on beaches around the world, from South Carolina to the Ukraine. From that point on, her sensitive and visually riveting portraits have documented individuals caught in transitional states, sometimes due to physical exertion, for example after giving birth or dancing, or charted over time through series. Along with other Western European photographers such as Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff, Dijkstra has been a leading innovator in the production of large-scale color images, which came to define contemporary photography in the 1990s and have transformed it ever since. This comprehensive retrospective will feature the Beach Portraits and other early works such as the photographs of new mothers and bullfighters, together with selections from Dijkstra’s later work. It also includes series that she has been working on continuously for years, such as Almerisa (1994–2008), which documents a young immigrant girl as she grows up and adapts to her new environment. Dijkstra’s work in video will be fully integrated in the exhibition.
Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work that offers a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale color photographs of young, typically adolescent subjects recall 17th-century Dutch painting in their scale and visual acuity.
The minimal contextual details present in her photographs and videos encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed.
Dijkstra works in series, creating groups of photographs and videos around a specific typology or theme.
In 1992, she started making portraits of adolescents posed on beaches from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Poland and Ukraine. Shot from a low perspective, the subjects of the Beach Portraits (1992– 2002), poised on the brink of adulthood, take on a monumental presence. In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificial pose.
Dijkstra has also photographed individuals repeatedly over the course of several months or years. Her ongoing Almerisa series began in 1994 with a single photograph of a young Bosnian girl at a Dutch refugee center for asylum seekers and has grown as Dijkstra continued to photograph her regularly for more than a decade as she became a young woman with a child of her own. The outward signs of her transition into adulthood and her integration into mainstream Dutch culture reveal themselves incrementally over the course of many years. Similarly, the Olivier series (2000–03) follows a young man from his enlistment with the French Foreign Legion through the years of his service, showing his both physical and psychological development into a soldier. Later, Dijkstra took portraits of new initiates to the Israeli army, photographing female soldiers in their uniforms after induction and then again in their civilian dress, as well as male soldiers directly after military exercises.
For several years beginning in 1998, Dijkstra photographed young people, often in groups, posed in the lush landscapes of public parks. In contrast to the neutral backgrounds against which many of her subjects are pictured, the richness of the park settings lends these works a greater depth of field and adds a narrative element.
More recently, Dijkstra has built upon her revelatory work in video from the mid-1990s. In The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996–97) and The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), Liverpool, UK (2009), Dijkstra filmed teenage habituées of local clubs dancing to their favorite music. Presented as multichannel video installations, these works showcase their subjects’ teen personas and methods of self-expression, revealed in how they style themselves and in the movements of their bodies. Two video works made in 2009 at Tate Liverpool expand the artist’s interest in the empathic exchange between photographer and subject to include the affective response to artworks. In I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) (2009), a group of schoolchildren engage with art, discussing their perceptions of and reactions to a work by Pablo Picasso, while Ruth Drawing Picasso (2009) shows a girl pensively sketching a masterwork.
About Rineke Dijkstra
Dijkstra was born in Sittard, the Netherlands, in 1959. She studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1981 to 1986. Since her first solo exhibitions, at de Moor in Amsterdam in the early 1980s, Dijkstra has shown at the Sprengel Museum Hannover (1998); the Herzliya Museum of Art, Israel, and MACBA, Barcelona (1999); the Art Institute of Chicago and ICA Boston (2001); and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2005), in an exhibition that traveled to several venues, including the Jeu de Paume, Paris; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Fundació la Caixa, Barcelona; and the Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague. Dijkstra has also exhibited widely in group shows, including the Venice Biennale (1997 and 2001), the Bienal de São Paulo (1998), and the Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography, New York (2003), among many others. She has received wide recognition and numerous awards for her work, including the Kodak Award Nederland, the Art Encouragement Award Amstelveen, the Werner Mantz Award, and the Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize.
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective is organized by Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator, Photography, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator, Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition will be accompanied by the first comprehensive monograph on the artist’s work to be published in the United States.
This exhibition is supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam. The New York presentation is supported in part by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
The Leadership Committee for 2012 Exhibitions of Photography is gratefully acknowledged.
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