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Olaf Breuning

Considering himself “a naive artist, a child of postmodern times”, Olaf Breuning links his artistic practice to a kind of lightness, humour and flippancy. Whatever his expressive medium—drawing, sculpture, photography, film or installation—the artist always tries to appropriate and transfigure pre-existing cultural and artistic icons, mixing the serious, the caricatural and the uncanny.

After studying photography in Winterthur and Zurich, Breuning continued his work at the Swiss Institute in Rome in 1998, and a year later moved to New York, where he currently lives and works.

His heterogeneous work shows a desire to explore the Western visual imagination and alter reality through mises en scène that are both troubling and comical. Stereotypes from pop culture, trash culture and horror (zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc.), and the main clichés from the dominant art currents of the 20th century (particularly surrealism, abstract art and Pop Art), are diverted through apparently simple, artificial visual productions, saturated with colour. These sorts of video installations and large-format photographic series, which straddle the boundary between elitist culture and mass culture, made his name on the Swiss art scene in the late 1990s.

His works have been remounted at numerous international exhibitions and can be found in public art collections, like that of New York City, which presented one of his installations in Central Park in 2014.

His works are very often endowed with a narrative function, telling stories that are sometimes playful (Oh Yes… It Is a Garden!, 2005), sometimes parodical (The Band, 2006) or unsettling (20 Dollars, 2007, Complaining Forest, 2010). Nevertheless, the humorous exterior often only hides a more complex core.