Review: Rineke Dijkstra

Featuring many of the Dutch photographer's best known portraits, this Rudolfinum show is an intense yet intimate experience

Rineke Dijkstra - Portraits

Altogether spellbinding, Dijkstra's alluring large-scale photographic portraits are a welcome sight in the equally appealing gallery space at the Rudolfinum. Surprising in their formalistic simplicity and minimalism, the effect created by the photographs of this Dutch-born artist are anything but plain.

Dijkstra's intense-yet-intimate approach to portraiture is reminiscent of the work of Diane Arbus. The fully lit subjects, their powerful expressions, and the obvious rapport that the artist had with the people she photographed all show a striking resemblance to Arbus's seminal work. Taking this approach to photography provides the finished products with an ironic luster, combining candidness with pretense, linking the viewer to the subject in an eerily intimate yet imposing relationship.

This exhibition features some of Dijkstra's most famous works, among them portraits of matadors, revelers on the beach, young Israeli soldiers, and mothers who've just given birth. Although the photographs capture their subjects at very different moments in their lives, their honesty shines through, suggesting a psychological link. The sitters are caught in a moment that implies that their faces are interchangeable, linked by the mesmerizing effect the camera lens can have on its subject. The almost shocking sincerity - or slight unease, perhaps - on the faces of the subjects, together with the lighting technique, creates a feeling of temporal and spatial forgetfulness, almost as if you've entered a dialogue with the portrait on the wall.

The Rudolfinum show also features a hilarious video filmed in nightclubs in Liverpool and the Netherlands. Various young clubbers dance, shake, grind, or just nod their heads in time to techno music. In most cases, absolute self-confidence permeates their comical dancing techniques but for others, apprehension sets in, and a nervous smile flashes across their faces. I don't want to give away too much because it's difficult to put into words the intense joy and slight awkwardness watching this video causes. The lack of inhibition combined with the large scale of the videos make you want to squirm through your laughter, even just a little. It's the perfect combination and the ideal end-piece to the exhibit.

Whether you appreciate this show for the artistic techniques or simply for the compelling subject matter, make certain to give yourself a bit of time with this one - it's definitely not to be missed.

The Rineke Dijkstra show is at Galerie Rudolfinum, Alšovo nábřeží 12, Prague 1 until August 27th, 2006

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