“At last, there exists a well-researched and authoritative account of the life and work of the artist Bas Jan Ader, who has for too long resided in the romanticized shadow cast by his disappearance at sea in 1975. Alexander Dumbadze fleshes out Ader’s working practice, particularly in Los Angeles, giving detailed analysis of the context in which he was working and so bringing a more comprehensive perspective and understanding of both the man and the artist that has hitherto been missing.”
Bas Jan Ader
Death is Elsewhere
|Publication date: May 15, 2013 ||$27.50 • £19.50 |
|International publication date: 27 May 2013 ||ISBN: 978-0-226-03853-7 (Cloth) |
On July 9, 1975, Dutch-born artist Bas Jan Ader set sail from Chatham, Massachusetts, on a thirteen-foot sailboat. He was bound for Falmouth, England, on the second leg of a three-part piece titled In Search of the Miraculous. The damaged boat was found south of the western tip of Ireland nearly a year later. Ader himself was never seen again.
The legend of Ader’s untimely death has propelled him to near-mythic status in the art world—he is seen as a figure literally willing to die for his art. But few consider his legacy and concise oeuvre beyond the romantic and tragic associations that accompany his peculiar end. In the first in-depth study of this enigmatic conceptual artist, Alexander Dumbadze resituates Ader’s art and life within the art world of Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
Blending biography, theoretical reflection, and archival research, Bas Jan Ader draws a detailed picture of the world in which Ader’s work was rooted: a vibrant international art scene populated with peers such as Ger Van Elk, William Leavitt, and Allen Ruppersberg. Dumbadze looks closely at Ader’s engagement with questions of free will and his ultimate success in creating art untainted by mediation, offering a nuanced argument about artistic subjectivity that explains Ader’s tremendous relevance to contemporary art. Taut and revealing, Bas Jan Ader is a thoughtful contemplation of the necessity of the creative act and its inescapable relation to death.
Alexander Dumbadze is associate professor of art history at the George Washington University.
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