Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Guggenheim

Portrait by Rineke Dijkstra, Dutch photographer, exhibiting at the Guggenheim in NYC.

Rineke Dijkstra, the Dutch photographer whose excellent, at times deeply affecting (and at other times more than a little amusing) retrospective is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum NYC, was once asked why she so often uses teenagers as the subjects of her work. Dijkstra explained that since they "they have no defined image of themselves yet," there's so often a great turmoil just below the surface, a barely concealed cauldron of vulnerability, experimentation, hormones, self-consciousness, UNself-consciousness, fear, all of it. And as is obvious after you've spent an hour or two wandering the galleries and watching the videos here at the Guggenheim's Rineke Dijkstra retrospective, she is pretty brilliant at capturing that exact moment of tension between self-protection and self-expression. This may be our favorite museum show so far this year.       

Images of teenagers in the park at Guggenheim's Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective exhibit.

Dutch Photographer Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective

Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum NYC features more than 70 photographs, most of them printed wonderfully large, spread out through four or five of the museum's side galleries, with about a dozen distinct series providing further organization. We have no real favorites here–it's all pretty gripping–but we will say that Dijkstra's portraits of adolescents at the beach are worth the Guggenheim's (rather steep) admission price alone. Shot in locations as far flung as Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, Kolobrezg in Poland, Burbovnik in Croatia, and Coney Island right here in the city, these are emblematic of Dijkstra's work, with most of these kids looking both supremely awkward and, simultaneously, projecting a bravado, or a sensuality, in which to hide behind. What these and all of Dijkstra's work also make clear: despite differences in fashion and personal style, in culture and color and whatever else, people are pretty much the same the world over.   

The Krazyhouse photo at Guggenheim's Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective exhibit.

Rineke Dijkstra Guggenheim Exhibit

But photographs are only part of the story at the Guggenheim's Rineke Dijkstra retrospective. On three of the exhibition's floors, the Guggenheim is showing Dijkstra's videos as well, all very simple, all totally engaging. For example, there's The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), for which Dijkstra recruited Liverpudlian club kids to dance in front of a plain white background to the song of their choice. And that's what we get, a single adolescent dancing–sometimes with shy giggles, sometimes with real swagger or sex appeal–to an entire song. And it is endearing and enthralling in equal measures, how exposed these kids are to our gawking, to our laughter and smiles, in the audience. Great stuff. We also loved I See a Woman Crying, in which a group of English school kids, in full uniform, describe what they imagine is going on in an unseen-to-us painting of a woman crying. Again, it's unusual in life to be allowed to stare at someone's face for any length of time, and it feels both intrusive and sneakily freeing to do so here.  

I See a Woman Crying photography by Rineke Dijkstra at the Guggenheim.

Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Guggenheim Details 

The Rineke Dijkstra retrospective is on view through October 8 at the Upper East Side's Guggenheim Museum. The Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street, and is open every Sunday through Wednesday, and then on Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and on Saturdays until 7:45 p.m. Closed Thursday. For more information about the Guggenheim and the Rineke Dijkstra exhibition, please see the museum's website, here.    

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