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Erwin Olaf: Breakfast in America


You are Invited to the Opening Reception: Sunday, December 7 from 3pm until 7pm.

The Museum of New Art | MONA is located at 2501 Rochester Court, Troy, MI 48083.


The explosive new developments in photography in the last decades have only increased its untold expressive power. In this new millennium, it alone is the primary vehicle of our modern consciousness. New photography, through its latest mechanisms and materials, seeks to discover and record not only our candid minutiae but something of the soul of contemporary society.


Photography's long-acknowledged power to mirror the face of the world has by no means been abandoned in Erwin Olaf's exhibition, but now allows us to step through that mirror.


Olaf’s impeccably orchestrated sets achieve a level of aesthetic consistency precisely because he builds them all from floor to ceiling, creating perfect stages on which to enact moments of awkwardness, shame, or humiliation—the grievous emotions and impulses we might all wish to repress. To that end, his images appear both candid and supremely self-conscious, natural and posed at once; and though they have the clarity and naturalism achieved only by photography, in composition, tone, and gesture they have the mood of a painting.











‘Erwin Olaf* is one of the world’s most sought-after photographers, with seven gallery representations worldwide and two Aperture books and dozens of exhibitions to his name.’- Diane Smyth, British Journal of Photography


"With costumed actors in sets evoking the mid-20th-century Midwest, Olaf's photographs look like scenes that Norman Rockwell's mordantly crazed cousin might have painted. Each illustrates a moment in an emotionally charged narrative, with muted color and lighting enhancing a suspenseful, noirish atmosphere: the middle-aged teacher erotically fixated on his Lolita-esque student in an empty classroom; the frumpy housewife lost in her sad and lonely thoughts in her clean, modern kitchen; or, even the Boy Scout and his black-and-white mutt standing expectantly yet frozen in the ice cream parlor."- Ken Johnson, the NY Times


According to critic Francis Hodgson, Olaf’s images “lead us to a sense of atmosphere which is broad enough to repay many second readings of the pictures and so keep us viewers interested.”


Erwin Olaf (born in the Netherlands, 1959) is a Dutch photographer known for his highly stylized, daring, and often provocative work addressing social issues and taboos. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Johannes Vermeer Award (2011), a Lucie Award (2008), and Photographer of the Year in the International Color Awards (2006). His work is shown in museums and galleries around the world. Olaf also received a commission to design the new national side of the Dutch Euro, launched in 2013.

The Museum of New Art | Photograpy is located at 2501 Rochester Court, Troy, MI 48083.

Opening Reception: Sunday, December 7 from 3pm to 7pm.


Exhibition runs from December 7 through February 15, 2015.

Hours: 12pm to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday.


*Erwin Olaf is represented by Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NYC @


**Due to the mature nature of several images, it is advised that you be 18 years or older for proper viewing.

MONA presents Dutch photographer’s “Rain”

By Stephanie Preweda, Special to Digital First Media and the Oakland Press


When the world was in distress over the events of 9/11, Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf wanted to create something uplifting for the people.


He created a series of photographs in 2004 inspired by Americana painter Norman Rockwell, which are on display in the show “Breakfast in America” at the Museum of New Art in Troy.


“Once I started working, I wasn’t feeling a happy vibe at all,” he says. “It seemed that I was still very much in sync with the mood of the world, which was somber.”


Olaf changed the name of his series to “Rain,” which felt more appropriate for his work.

He designs and builds a studio set specifically for each photograph. The design process can take up to a few weeks, and building takes several days to complete.


“I usually think I am crazy for getting into all that work for one photograph,” he says. “It’s really a special thing when something that is in your mind comes to life in a set. We start with small, simple drawings, and then once the sets materialize it’s quite magical.”


Olaf says this is his first “very introvert” series. The photos are not loud, nor as expressive as his other works. Rather, this series is about human emotions and reactions to bad news when it first arrives but has yet to sink in.


Gallery Director Jef Bourgeau came across Olaf’s work in an art magazine in the early 2000s and was drawn to the “dark humor and rich imagination” of the images. Bourgeau says Olaf’s style has been described as having the clarity of a photograph with the mood of a painting.


In 2004, a New York gallery representing Olaf, Hasted Kraeutler Art Gallery, sent Bourgeau a poster of his work reflecting Rockwell’s style.


“This new series — part Rockwell, part Edward Hopper, but all Erwin Olaf’s unique filter and vision — was perfect for that initial experience, and I was more determined to get his work to Detroit than ever,” Bourgeau says. He wanted to connect the American audience to Olaf’s European imagery.


“Looking back over the last 18 years at MONA, this exhibition stands out from nearly all the others in that it is the most comprehensive survey of a single artist’s work to date,” Bourgeau says.


Because of the mature nature of several images, it is advised that visitors be 18 or older. For more information, visit!erwin-olaf/cd0o.


• Erwin Olaf’s Breakfast in America

• Open through Feb. 15

• Museum of New Art, 2501 Rochester Court, Troy

• Hours: noon-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday

• This exhibition is recommended for people 18 and older!erwin-olaf/cd0o

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