Inside the late baroque Zwinger Palace is the Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) in the Semperbau. The walls of the gallery are covered from floor to ceiling in renaissance and baroque paintings with rich, deep colors, intensified light and dark sha- dows. The thick, decoratively carved frames of the paintings are graceful while giving a sense of imposition.
Baroque art bloomed during a period of reli- gious tension and division between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. It was the Catholic Church that encouraged artists to paint realistic compositions of biblical stories. These were meant to visually educate the illiterate masses and increase church mem- bership. Among these paintings are those in which artists expressed their individual inter- pretations of biblical stories, ancient mytho- logies and their sociopolitical and socio- economic state.
Not far from the Zwinger Palace is the Alberti- num, a renaissance revival building in which the New Masters Gallery (Galerie Neue Meister) resides. Here, some of the finest art pieces represent the progression of European art history from romanticism to the most current art. The paintings are set in simple frames (if they are framed at all) and hung at eye level in a single row. Sculptures and installations occupy some of the open spaces. Unlike the clustered display of the Old Masters Gallery, the New Masters Gallery reflects the curatorial style of our time.
Art as propaganda has been seen through- out the history of art. Repeated artistic re- presentation of the religious stories of ancient Egypt, India, China and North and central America all demonstrate this trend. What is most fascinating is that artists in these con- texts have always found ways to either co- vertly or openly express their own points of view through their commissioned pieces. This clever creative subversion is just as pre- sent in the pieces seen here.
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that a body remains at rest or in motion with con- stant velocity unless acted upon by an ex- ternal force. This principle seems to apply to the progression of Western art. The external force may be a governing or religious entity asserting its ideology over the creative im- pulses of an artistic movement. These can be thought of as concentrations of power that cause the direction of art to bend from discrete entities having a distinct effect on artistic progress.
Despite this apparent linear motion, art hi- story appears to go through cycles. In Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the mass of the sun distorts or curves space-time causing the earth’s linear path to bend into the orbi- tal rotation we see. If we think of oppression as a mass that distorts the direction of art, then the path of artistry is curved by oppres- sion. Whether sociopolitical or religious in nature, it is the overall mass of oppression that keeps art in this cycle or orbit. The idea that the mere presence of something could cause time and space to curve is as unsettl- ing as it is encouraging. The name of the ex- hibition stems from this idea.
The exhibition is thematic, based on histori- cal research of European artists who resisted oppressive artistic movements and covertly expressed their individual observations in their work. Selected paintings and sculptures of human activity depicted by artists from 1498 to 1914 are retold by three contemporary video artists, using modern technology to bring these ideas to the present.