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Indepth Arts News:

"FOCUS: Rineke Dijkstra"
2001-04-11 until 2001-07-29
Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA

A highly anticipated exhibition of the work of acclaimed contemporary Dutch-born artist Rineke Dijkstra will be on view at The Art Institute of Chicago this spring and summer. FOCUS: Rineke Dijkstra, on view April 11 - July 29, 2001, in Gallery 262 of The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, will feature a series of large, almost life-size portraits in bright, saturated colors depicting three groups of people: a group of Israeli teenage girls, young Israeli soldiers (men and women) in both military and civilian garb, and a teen French Foreign Legionnaire named Olivier. This exhibition - Dijkstras first solo North American museum showing - is the fifth installment in an ongoing project series called FOCUS: single-artist/single-gallery presentations of contemporary art at the Art Institute. Previous artists featured in the FOCUS series have been Shirin Neshat, Thomas Hirshhorn, Olafur Eliasson, and Stan Douglas.

Rineke Dijkstra (b. 1959) is a photographer and video artist who has, in a brief time, developed an international reputation as one of the most visibly and highly regarded Dutch artists of her generation. Her large-scale photographs possess not only a remarkable formal classicism, but a psychological depth and a social awareness that bring to mind artists as different as Diane Arbus and August Sander.

Dijkstras images of adolescent bathers - which she began photographing on beaches in the United States and Eastern Europe in 1992 - have received considerable critical acclaim. She also produced other portrait series, ranging from Dutch women with newborn babies and Portuguese matadors, to Dutch and English schoolchildren and teenagers in nightclubs. Often, one group will lead the artist in another direction, bringing her to an unlikely but related subject. For example, the images of new mothers led directly to the images of bullfighters. Says the artist: The matadors came out covered in blood and exhausted - very similar to the mothers...I did not intend to do the men like that, all macho and the women as mothers - it just evolved from the experience...women make this extreme physical effort...while the men search for it as a kind of adventure. But still, both are exhausting and life-threatening actions. Recently the artist has turned her attention to video and sound installations that incorporate images of teenagers responding to popular dance music.

Dijkstras color photographic portraits of children and adolescents - alone and in small groups - are characterized by a remarkable formal classicism, psychological depth, and conceptual rigor. In many respects, Dijkstras seemingly detached, unflinching eye and her almost clinical attention to detail can be understood in documentary terms. Taken as a whole, her approach could be seen as a 1) quasi-scientific, 2) cross-cultural, and 3) sociological study of human behavior in front of a camera. What distinguishes Dijkstras photographic portraits though, is a singular empathy with her subjects. Says the artist: For me it is essential to understand that everyone is alone. Not in the sense of loneliness, but rather in the sense that no one can completely understand someone else. I want to awaken definite sympathies for the person I have photographed.

During the last two years, Dijkstras work with young soldiers - both in the Israeli army and in the French Foreign Legion - has provided a vehicle for the artist to continue her examination of youth around the use, appearance, and social significance of uniforms.

In particular, her new portrait series presented at the Art Institute will focus on the ways in which military service serves as a rite of passage - either by choice or obligation - from young adulthood to adult citizenship with all its attendant complications.

FOCUS: Rineke Dijkstra was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and is supported by the HGIS-Culture fund of the Dutch Ministries for Foreign Affairs and Education, Culture, and Science, The Netherland-America Foundation, and ING Barings. The exhibition is curated by James Rondeau, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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