Rineke Dijkstra at the Guggenheim

“Maybe she’s all people brought together in one human…”

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These words from a dazed Liverpuddlian boy sizing up the central figure of Picasso’s Weeping Woman, which is situated just behind the camera and out of the frame in Rineke Dijkstra’s twelve minute, continuously looping 3 channel HD video, The Weeping Woman, 2009. The student (one of nine in the video), whose consistently furrowed eyebrows and quivering mouth indicate his concern with what he is seeing, gets at the universality of the Dutch artist’s subjects and thus the empathy they elicit from the viewer. Dijkstra (the beginning of her name is pronounced like ‘dichotomy’) focuses on young people whose expressions and postures vacillate between ostentatious playfulness and extreme self-consciousness with regard to their changing bodies and the maturation of their world. The portraits recall 17th century Dutch painting in their scale and expertly printed even tone, but the subjects are relatable.  They make us remember when we were awkward – and how we still are.

Make no mistake, though – while some of the work is quite serious (think blood-spattered Spanish bullfighters and a nude mother clutching her infant hours after birth), there are moments of pure joy. The video mentioned above is one of these. I stayed for two loops of the twelve-minute discussion about Picasso’s painting among these children, who come up with some startlingly perceptive observations. One boy says, “I think she is quite lovely and afraid.” Another says, “Maybe Picasso just wanted to do a colorful picture.”

If you haven’t seen this exhibit, check it out. It runs through October 8th at the Guggenheim, and I would highly recommend attending the Curator’s Eye Tour with Jennifer Blessing, Guggenheim’s senior curator of photography, on Friday, August 24 at 2pm. It’s free with the cost of admission and well worth the time to learn about Dijkstra’s connections to her subjects and the dialogue she creates between the images with the layout of her show. Or just enjoy the pictures.

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Categories: Exhibitions