Saturday, March 14, 2009

Los Angeles

Bas Jan Ader is both well known and little known as an artist. He died, or disappeared in 1975 at the age of 33, in a boat somewhere off the coast of Cape Cod. He was attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 13 foot sailboat. Why? For Art; as a performance that would challenge the boundaries between art and life.

I'm in LA for my DNA project, but also to encounter the landscape of Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, one of the big inspirations of my work. I really understand now why he fell in love with this continent and the amazing landscape of California.

Ader was born in Holland in 1942. He settled in Los Angeles in 1963 after sailing across the ocean from Morocco. This journey took eleven months. Once in Los Angeles Ader studied art and philosophy and became an active member of the Los Angeles art scene, exhibiting his works in numerous exhibitions and teaching at UC Irvine among other places.

Many artists working in Los Angeles during the 1970’s were interested in the relationship between art and life; between performance and photography; and the difference between the art object and documentation of an action. Ader's work fit within this conceptual framework. His performances and actions were well documented and presented as finished films or photographic works. Although conceptual in practice they were also visually sophisticated. He was aware of and interested in the work being made by contemporaneous artists such as Ed Ruscha, Gordon Matta Clark, Robert Smithson, and Chris Burden. Like many of these artists, Ader was interested in his presence and alterations to his surroundings. His body, face or shadow figured prominently in his works as subject and the object.