Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective

Feb 18-May28 a la SFMOMA

 I have followed Dijkstra’s work since working at the Walker Art Center back in the day… and for some time looking forward to seeing her the Dutch artists first retrospective at the SFMOMA this Spring. Before coming to the show, I had been exposed to her photos of women just after having given birth, and her Liverpool night club videos.

The exhibition itself opens with a series of photos of adolescents and pre-adolescents on the beach. There was some talk on the wall that stated that the beach was where people came to relax and let go, and that Dijkstra relayed on classical painting and still life traditions for composition. This is interesting, somewhat - I thought. But I started to fear that perhaps I had been mistaken with the artist. (I go through fads where I like art that I really should not like) That she might be a landscape painter, in the disguise of a concept photo journalist/artist. I say that not to place a value judgment on either, I just was in the mood to see the later. I feared that I was being entertained by work that was not investigative but more aesthetic and took advantage of the “otherness” inherent in beach the subjects.

However, by the next room, I changed my mind, and quite suddenly fell back into a deep ever-lasting (I predict) love with Rineke. (I must confess here, I still do not know how to properly say her name - thus most often I refer to her as the Dutch Portrait Photographer.) The next room, though I question the layout, introduced three of the four works that sold me. I wanted caught myself dancing in the along with the videos. I imagined giving birth, and the euphoric feeling of unconditional love. I remembered being young, free, hopeful & insecure. Reflected on how now I am older, and oddly, even though I don’t go out, I am more secure.

Some themes I thought about while viewing the show:

Even though there are videos, she is still a photographer - Can this be true?

Her ideas are so similar to other things I have seen in the past - but hers are unique in style and execution. We were discussing fine vs. applied artists at dinner last night - is she one or both?

Is it okay if I like her, even tho her work is both hip and popular? That I see it as beautiful, yet not shallow?

I have come to the conclusion that I can love her (& her work, even though we have never met). Just like I still have a major soft spot for Miranda July.