Erwin Olaf

Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf delivers velvet-gloved emotional impact with his highly stylized mode of image making.


Erwin Olaf
Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf’s work offers a blend of mid-century modern and noir aesthetics seen through a contemporary, fashion-inflected lens. The ambiance of the series presented in this volume—the first time these three bodies of work have been presented as a whole—is truly enigmatic and enticing.

Olaf seduces the viewer via a mannered, restrained palette that is replete with faded avocado greens, golden-hued oranges, and subtle lilacs.

 Each richly colored and sleekly composed image offers a sly reinterpretation of Norman Rockwell-like iconography and characters, manifesting a nostalgia that both burlesques and wryly celebrates America of the 1950s and ’60s.

As a whole, the material investigates what critic Jonathan Turner defines as Olaf’s recent fascination with the visual representation of such emotions as loss, loneliness, and quiet despair….

He plays games with the idea of cold reality versus cruel artifice, capturing that precise moment when innocence, hope, and joy are lost.”

This project was made possible, in part, by generous support from the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; Hasted Hunt Gallery, New York; and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.