Erwin Olaf’s series Dawn & Dusk, first shown at The Museum of The City of New York, has since been presented at several museums around the world.
Dawn & Dusk is a two-part series of distinct halves, inspired by two completely different sources. Dusk was originally commissioned for The Museum of The City of New York for an exhibition titled Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered. Inspired by a body of work titled “The Hamptons Album”, shot in 1990 by female photographer Frances B. Johnston depicting middle class Native and African American students at a school in Virginia in 19th Century, Olaf chose to shoot black-on-black, presenting middle class African Americans in 20th Century environments. Inspired by reactions to an exhibition of his work in North Carolina, and to the discovery of Johnston’s photographic record, Olaf set about his new series with great incentive. This was the first work of Olaf’s in black-on-black for over a decade. Dawn, a response to Dusk, was subsequently in colour and concentrates more purely on form. Inspired by a trip to Moscow where Olaf observed a fair-skinned, blonde Russian family interacting in a room decorated in pale, muted colours, Olaf immediately envisioned the Dusk series reversed as white-on-white, resulting in the aesthetic mirror to Dusk.