Over the past 20-odd years, Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra has elevated adolescence to a status approaching the heroic, even the mythic. In a string of luminous color prints and highly watchable videos, she has repeatedly focused on teens, detailing their unsettling transitional beauty. This hugely likeable midcareer retrospective (incredibly, her first major American museum show) gathers work from the early 1990s to the present, confirming Dijkstra as a consistently engaging observer of the Awkward Age. “Beach Portraits” (1992–2002), a set of full-figure shots in which swimsuited boys and girls on shores from South Carolina to Poland echo the stately postures of 17th-century Dutch figure painting, is the artist’s most celebrated series. But there is plenty else here that is just as captivating.
In a hypnotically edited multichannel video installation filmed at Liverpool, U.K.’s Buzz Club and Zaandam, Netherlands’ Mystery World in the mid-1990s (the dizzy heyday, as the relentless soundtrack reminds us, of post-rave “‘ardkore”), Dijkstra isolates individual dancers against a plain white background, putting their period fashions and idiosyncratic dance moves under an affectionate microscope. Another sequence, made more than a decade later, is structurally simpler but no less affecting, its Lolita-like subjects demonstrating an endearing immersion in their own variations on fist-pumping and headbanging. (Accompanying prints make their juxtaposition of puppy fat, barely-there apparel and casually ported cigarettes and alcohol all the more disquieting.) In other images—of military initiates, young mothers, junior bullfighters—the artist applies a similar directness of approach to distill the elixir of youth.—Michael Wilson