Olaf Breuning is a Swiss-born, New-York based artist known for his experimental multimedia works, spanning photographs, videos, drawings and installations, sometimes mixed together, that regularly make use of pop-culture imagery. Often described as “outlandish”, his art also addresses ideas about consumerism, stereotypes, gender clichés, and analyzes the relationship between art and kitsch. Among these is his bizarre photo series “The Art Freaks”, which originally debuted in 2011, and is being revisited in the artist’s 15-year retrospective, “The Madness That We Call Reality”.
Olaf Breuning’s “The Art Freaks” is a group of color photographs of body-painted figures representing famous works of art by artists like Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Mondrian. His models are humorously covered in black line work, color blocks, and sometimes wear creepy prosthetics, as in his version of Munch’s “The Scream”, to make them look as if they stepped right out of the original painting. The series even spun off into a “Marylin” series, featuring models painted in black, except for their faces, and posed in a manner that repeats Warhol’s famous Marylin Monroe prints.
Breuning has said that the project began as an “investigation into his idiosyncratic relationship with modern and contemporary art, the larger than life-sized prints of elaborately painted bodies, which comprise “The Art Freaks”, conflate the tropes of so-called high and low artistic techniques as they discuss notions of kitsch, cliché, and reproduction.” Constantly pushing the boundary of how we define “art”, Breuning says, “Well, I would like to be perfect, but I think art shows me that whatever technology I use, my personality pushes through and there we are… something is not perfect. I like that.”
“The Art Freaks” is currently on view in Olaf Breuning’s retrospective, “The Madness That We Call Reality” at the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf in Germany through August 21st.