From 8 October 2022 to 15 January 2023, the exhibition Double Act brings together two collections in Utrecht (Netherlands): video installations of the Kramlich Collection and 17th-century paintings of the Centraal Museum. It is the first time for the Kramlich Collection to be displayed outside the United States on this scale. Contemporary greats like Bill Viola, Marina Abramović, Richard Mosse, Bruce Nauman and Steve McQueen rub shoulders with works by old masters such as Hendrick Golzius, Roeland Saverij, Paulus and Johannes Moreelse, and the Utrecht Caravaggisti painters Dirck van Baburen, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst.
The works will mirror each other and show striking similarities, sometimes in terms of subject, and sometimes in terms of mood. They will depict emotions, each using the techniques and technical resources of their time. The art of painting and video art meet in Double Act, and together they reflect human moods and emotions – like mirrors for the soul.
Richard Mosse’s monumental video installation The Enclave (2013) is paired with Hendrik ter Brugghen’s painting Mars asleep. The installation comprises six projections showing the constant threat and harrowing conditions of a war that drags on forever; images that are painfully relevant at the present time. The poignancy of Mosse’s work is enhanced by the beauty of the images. Using a 16mm infra-red camera, the often waiting soldiers appear to inhabit a dreamy pink landscape. The ‘real action’ always seems to take place off-camera.
The painting Mars Asleep depicts the god of war in the guise of a sleeping soldier, and was painted during a period of truce in the Eighty Years’ War with the Spanish. So the god depicted here is resting in peace, and as such symbolises the temporary absence of war. But for how long? As a precaution, his hand continues to clutch his sword. As viewers, we are left to reflect on what it means to be under threat and how we should respond.
The exhibition includes works by leading contemporary artists such as Bruce Nauman (Raw Material – Ok, Ok, Ok, 1990), Bill Viola (The Crossing, 1996) and Steve McQueen (Just above my head, 1996 and Lynching Tree, 2013). Among the top pieces from Centraal Museum’s own collection is the installation Expecting (2001 – 2004) by Pipilotti Rist, and there are two 17th-century paintings by Hendrick ter Brugghen from the Rijksmuseum collection.
By bringing together two such seemingly different collections the similarities stand out. When we look beyond the medium of paint or video, we see that both the 17th-century paintings and video art feature the vivid effects of light and dark and an emphatic delineation of the image. What the works on display have in common, above all, is their poignant character. They depict emotions, each using the techniques and technical resources of their time.
The art of painting and video art meet in Double Act, and together they reflect human moods and emotions – like mirrors for the soul. The works on display also relate to recurrent and contemporary issues such as emancipation, the causes of colonialism, imperialism and war. Double Act is a tribute to the power of imagination.