Writing in the catalogue for Rineke Dijkstra's retrospective, which she co-organized, SF MOMA senior curator of photography Sandra Philips likens the artist's portraits to 7th century icon paintings. The plain representation of both, she argues, "demands to be read." They are images that, in spite of our collective reserve about the facticity of images, turn careful observation of body language and facial expression to human nature.
Nearly every one of Dijkstra's hundreds of portraits features a subject with a frontal gaze, standing or seated against a blank or general background to eliminate distraction. She uses flash, even in daylight, to draw every detail out of the shadows. The photographs are precise to the point of appearing clinical, and encourage examination of her specimens. But science is not without drama, and a deep tension lies in each unmasking of a subject.
2012, aluminum, wood, sublimation print on polyester and concrete, 71 3/4 by 122 1/2 by 135 inches overall. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New Yor