Erwin Olaf online viewing room by Edwynn Houk Gallery

8 April 2021 — 22 May 2021
Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10151 Northeast, New York City

Edwynn Houk Gallery is pleased to present Erwin Olaf | New Series: “April Fool” and “In the Forest” in an online viewing room, live through 22 May 2021.

Drawing on tropes from art history and cinematography, Olaf creates photographs—often using elaborate staging and a diverse cast of participants— that toe the line between reality and fiction. Typically capturing his subjects mid-scene, Olaf creates works that convey a sense of mystery that invites viewers to piece together gestures, glances, symbols, and iconography to consider and question what they see.

Man with a pointed hat leans his head against a wall of an empty room, with a camera on a tripod aimed at him

Erwin Olaf, 11.15 am, from the April Fool series, 2020. © Erwin Olaf, courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

April Fool is a sequence of photographs that unfold over the course of a single morning in the spring of 2020. Overwhelmed by the dramatic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Olaf turned to the now desolate space of the grocery store, creating a body of otherworldly photographs in a once familiar place. Dressed as a modern Pierrot, Olaf cast himself as the protagonist and wandered the empty aisles and parking lot in a white dunce cap and black coat, staging eerie photos whose very subject is the absence of human activity itself.

Three small figurines are standing next to a very large waterfall in a forest

Erwin Olaf, Am Wasserfall (At the Waterfall), from the Im Wald (In the Forest) series, 2020. © Erwin Olaf, courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

In his latest series Im Wald, Olaf traveled to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, marking the first time that he has made a body of work exclusively outdoors. Drawing on the works of 19th-century romantic painters, Olaf staged poetic scenes against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains and expansive forest. These vast yet intimate landscapes and the accompanying portraits offer only a fragment of each subject’s story and reflect the eternal power struggle between humankind and nature. Among the works included is Am Wasserfall (above), a re-imagining of the painting Swimming (1885) by Thomas Eakins.

The online exhibition anticipates a major exhibition of Erwin Olaf’s work at the Kunsthalle München in Germany, on view 14 May – 26 September 2021.