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FROM THIS EPISODE

Now at the Getty Museum, three of my personal delights: 17th century Dutch art, cello music, and filmmaker Werner Herzog. And they are all together in a single work called Hearsay of the Soul on view through Jan. 19, 2014. 
 
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Hearsay of the Soul by Werner Herzog
Getty Museum
Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, 2013
 
Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo remains one of my favorites and his 2010 documentary on ancient paintings, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, showed his sensitivity to the complex impulse of man to make visual art. 
 
He does not consider himself an artist yet is held in such high regard within the art world that he was asked to contribute a work to 2012 Whitney Biennial. Thanks to L.A. dealer Steve Turner, the Getty purchased the five-channel video installation and it is now on view in a specially constructed gallery near the illuminated manuscripts in the North Pavilion. 
 
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Hearsay of the Soul by Werner Herzog
Getty Museum
Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, 2013
 
There are three parts to the 18 minute piece, which examines in close detail the rare prints of an obscure Dutch artist Hercules Segers, who lived from approximately 1589 to 1638, and was an influence on Rembrandt. The initial section is most compelling with greatly enlarged views of prints that depict a rugged, mostly barren landscape devoid of figures. In reality, we could never focus like this on the tiny details of crooked paths and jutting rock formations beneath pale skies and, in one case, a giant glaring sun.  Night scenes are illuminated by cross-hatched strokes of white. Prints by Segers are quite rare. Most are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam where Herzog filmed them, so it is likely viewers will be seeing them for the first time. The effect is heightened to a great extent by the glorious musical score by contemporary composer Ernst Reijseger, who performs on his cello with Harmen Fraanje, who plays the organ, in a Lutheran church in Haarlem. Herzog’s filming of this scene reveals his unabashed affection for both the music and musicians and it is most moving. The third section, however, is just a large-scale slide show of Seger’s prints. This is a disappointment despite the rousing Handel aria adapted by Reijseger.  
 
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Hearsay of the Soul by Werner Herzog
Getty Museum
Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust, 2013

Nonetheless, it is worth a visit and connects to the Getty’s fine collection of Dutch painting. It also underscores their interest in acquiring more time-based work, i.e. video art, to join pieces by Bill Viola and Judy Fiskin. Herzog and Reijseger will discuss Hearsay of the Soul at the Getty on August 3 at 5 p.m. 
 
For more information, go to Getty.edu
 
Banner image: Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust

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