from 17 June to 12 September 2010 – Centro Internationale di Fotografia

A true genius of modern photography, the Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf blends journalistic reportage with studio photography and poised portraiture.
His flawless images are the fruit of his unique creativity and vivid intellect, capable of conceiving and achieving a detailed and engaging narrative like the individual frames of a film.
Erwin Olaf has a liking for scenarios set in a private dimension: inside the home, all but silent dialogues, glances and atmospheres, often drawing their inspiration from the cinema of the fifties, within which he manoeuvres his characters.
Moreover, in recent years, Erwin Olaf has become one of the most sought-after directors of commercial film and advertising: he has created countless campaigns for leading brands.

This exhibition at FORMA is his first major solo exhibition in Italy and present six of his most recent and significant series: Rain, Hope, Grief, Fall, Dawn, Dusk and Hotel.
The subjects of Hope (2005) and Rain (2004) refer directly to the American stereotypes traditionally conveyed by cinema. In an almost Technicolor setting, boy scouts, pon pon girls or housewives exist in a dimension of closeness and absence with the objects that surround them, leaving the viewer poised between the experience of reality and dream.
Moreover, the images in Grief, from 2007, appear to raise a series of questions: the figures cry or else stare enigmatically out of the window, as if they were waiting for something to happen that would change their lives.
With their averted, half-open eyes, the models in the series Fall evoke an even more estranged dimension. They are captured as they lower their eyes, they do not look towards the lens, it is as if these images were the “wrong” moments of the shoot. These unwanted moments – almost a lapsus of vision – create a disturbing absence and Fall thus seems the natural consequence of earlier series: a mass of mute questions crowding the viewer’s mind.
On the other hand, Dusk and Dawn are the fruit of a different process. The birth of this series can be traced back to the artist’s visit to the United States, where he had the opportunity to admire a photograph album of African American students from the early twentieth century: “The Hamptons Album”, by the photographer Frances B. Johnston. Fascinated by these images, Olaf wished to recreate those atmospheres, playing with the themes of typographical and photographic black.
Dawn is a logical response to Dusk. This work is based on another one of Olaf’s trips, this time to Russia, and sets the pale-skinned and almost evanescent characters in luminous, empty rooms, as if immersed in a polar “white night”. The exhibition also includes films related to the photographic series.
Private lives is completed by Erwin Olaf’s last work: the great images from Hotel series.

I am not really sure what I wanted to say when I was working on RAIN, HOPE and GRIEF. Now I am growing. I have more doubts and I do not know where my work will lead me. I feel that I was exploring. When I made the series DUSK I did not have the answers. Now that I have finished DAWN, I finally understand what I wanted to say. I do not think I can express it with words, but I believe I know. The best thing is when at the end of it all, there is a question mark.
Erwin Olaf
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Mondrian Foundation and the Dutch Consulate in Italy.

Gallery hours