Though he disappeared nearly forty years ago—lost at sea in a small sailboat, in the execution of a work he titled “In Search of the Miraculous”—Bas Jan Ader has come to exert a near gravitational force on the contemporary art world.
Born in Holland, Ader studied in Los Angeles (at Otis and Claremont) and worked here for nearly a decade before his disappearance. His oeuvre was slight: a handful of photographs and videos documenting private performances, primarily. But there is a clarity, a sincerity to the work—spiritual as much as emotional—that resonates powerfully to this day.
A selection of photographic studies at Patrick Painter offer an intimate view on two of Ader’s most poignant works. “I’m Too Sad to Tell You,” from 1970 and 1971, was a performance that involved the artist crying before the camera; it was documented in both video and photographs. The photographs on display here capture an act as raw as it is elusive, as intrinsically moving as it is baffling.
Even more touching, in part because more rare, are eighteen small, shadowy studies from “In Search of the Miraculous (One Night in Los Angeles),” the first part of the three part work that resulted in Ader’s death.