PRINT March 1999


Simultaneous home-turf retrospectives for California native Sam Francis and west cast adoptee Bas Jan Ader provide the occasion for a pair of Artforum contributing editors to reassess the respective legacies of two central protagonists in the prehistory of LA’s current artistic flowering.

Anticipating Bas Jan Ader’s first US retrospective, Bruce Hainley examines the Dutch-born Conceptualist’s modest output and the cult that has grown up around the work since the artist disappeared at sea in 1975, while attempting to complete part two of his performative triptych In Search of the Miraculous. Seen in full at UC Irvine, Ader’s oeuvre should cement his status as a seminal influence on recent LA art.

THE ARTIST IS CRYING AND TOO SAD TO TELL ANYONE WHY. A postcard with the dated note—“Sept. 13 1970. I’m too sad to tell you.”—shows Bas Jan Ader racked by tears. Whatever caused the tears to flow (the artist never publicly stated the reason) is ultimately beside the point. And yet Ader reenacted his private sadness, restaged it, photographed it to mail to others. While his piece retains a “real” sadness, it keeps vital the artifice and melodrama inherent in placing himself before

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