Dutch photographer Dijkstra is known for her stark, minimally staged portraits of people at transitional moments in their lives, and Julie, a large-scale chromogenic print from her “New Mothers” series, is no exception. Wearing nothing but a small, sheer obstetric hospital dressing, Dijkstra’s subject stands straight against a plain white wall. Feet spread apart, she stares the photographer down, covering her breasts with the wrinkled, pink infant she gave birth to just an hour earlier.
This half-hour, two-screen video splits images of two groups of teens as they dance to club music against blank backgrounds. The Buzz Club, which was filmed in England and the Netherlands over the course of two years, chronicles the awkward adolescence of working-class girls and boys as they drink, dance, flirt, kiss and experiment with drugs. “The piece gives us a snapshot of the mid-’90s club scene and a meditation on how music affects us,” says Jennifer Blessing, the senior curator for the Gugg’s photography exhibitions.
One of Dijkstra’s more recent projects, this 12-minute looped video, projected on three massive HD screens, chronicles a group of English schoolchildren reacting to the namesake Picasso masterwork. The painting is never shown onscreen, and “collectively, the kids’ responses serve as a metaphor for what Dijkstra is trying to achieve in her art,” says Blessing. The young critics’ comments on the famous piece—which include alternately humorous and tender lines such as “I can see a woman crying,” “It might be her birthday and someone might have bought her a sports car” and “She could just be sad about life”—touch on how important imagination and lack of pretension are to artistic interpretation.
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Dijkstra’s photographs are often compared to portraits done by the Old Masters, and Édouard Manet’s Woman in Evening Dress (Femme en robe de soirée) (circa 1877-80), which features a well-appointed Pariesienne attired in a black-and-white gown, echoes the feeling of Dijkstra’s most celebrated portraits. “After viewing ‘Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective,’ museumgoers will see masterpieces in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection with fresh eyes,” she says.