Critics’ Picks

Please don't leave me, 1969. Installation.

Please don't leave me, 1969. Installation.


Bas Jan Ader

Galerie Chantal Crousel
10 rue Charlot
May 22–June 28, 2003

Presentations of Bas Jan Ader’s work are always tinged with absence. The Dutch-born “existential Conceptualist” disappeared at sea in 1975 at the age of thirty-three while attempting to cross the Atlantic in a thirteen-foot sailboat for a piece called In Search of the Miraculous II. At Chantal Crousel’s modest exhibition, installations as well as vintage and reprinted photographs come across as relics. The plaintive entreaty “PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME” is painted on a wall, bare light bulbs glowing in the middle of the phrase; another wall-text installation, Thoughts unsaid, then forgotten, is accompanied by a wilting bunch of lilies. Additional works include photographs of the artist falling (a key gesture) and Sawing, a triptych that shows Ader using a radial saw to cut a handsaw in half. These records of his actions are fragile monuments to the quixotic absurdity underlying certain of Ader’s artistic endeavors (and, maybe, those of his LA-Conceptualist compatriots). His self-portraits walk the line between mockery and seriousness, undercutting the maudlin effects of hindsight and enabling us to go beyond the notion of the artist as a tragic hero or modern-day Icarus.