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IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS: THIRTY YEARS LATER

Curator: Pedro de Llano

Artist: Bas Jan Ader

28 May - 5 September 2010

The exhibition In Search of the Miraculous: Thirty Years Later is the first solo show in Spain devoted to Bas Jan Ader?s work. Ader was born in The Netherlands in 1942 and disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic in 1975 while attempting to complete the second part of his project In Search of the Miraculous, which consisted in crossing the ocean from the United States to Europe in a four and a half metre-long sailboat. Ader lived in California since he was 21 years old and formed part of the first generation of conceptual artists which arose in Los Angeles in the mid-sixties.

The project In Search of the Miraculous: Thirty Years Later is centred on the last episode in a creative life that was marked by risk and adventure: the Ocean Wave, the boat in which the artist set out in July 1975 to challenge nature to its ultimate consequences, in his posthumous work, was found ten months later, capsized, in the Irish Box fishing grounds by the Spanish trawler Eduardo Pondal whose base was the port of Corunna. This event was essential to the understanding of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, and constitutes the focus of the exhibition proposal. In it, starting from a collection of material gathered together after a period of research which began in 2005, the process which led to one of his most symbolic works is documented. Elements such as the report from the marine command, in which the story of the boat?s discovery is accounted, the last photographs of the Ocean Wave in Corunna (before its mysterious disappearance, for the second time, from the port itself), manuscripts, a short documentary-film with direct testimonials from the people who participated in the rescue, nautical charts, books about ocean crossings and other unpublished material, all help to reconstruct the memory of this tragic event and the end of one of the most attractive contributions to the conceptual art of the time.

The exhibition is completed with a selection of works which emphasise the principle themes which Bas Jan Ader developed throughout his career, as a precedent to his last project. On the one hand, there will be a group of works -created between 1967 and 1974- dealing with subjects such as “falling”, “failure”, “adventure” or “disappearance”, and offering some clues to understanding the reasons why the artist took such an extreme risk in his “search for the miraculous”. On the other hand, the 1975 exhibition at the Claire Copley Gallery in Los Angeles in which the first phase of the In Search of the Miraculous project was shown, will be reconstructed in its entirety. All these works, as well as a collection of documents from different American, Dutch and Spanish archives, make up an exhibition proposal which aims to contextualise and provide access to his artistic project and his incredible life.

It is not therefore a conventional retrospective, but the presentation of an unknown and singular perspective, through an account which is centred around the In Search of the Miraculous project and tells the story in a different manner from the way it has been previously done. A story which speaks indirectly of Galicia in 1976 too: the Atlantic ocean, work at sea, the Irish Box, the fishermen who found Aders boat and a very specific social moment of transition from Francos dictatorship to democracy.

All these ingredients make the figure of Bas Jan Ader widely transcend the art world to the point of becoming a myth—enigmatic, contradictory and paradoxical—of contemporary culture, which is projected and developed in time outside of his own existence. The approach of the exhibition takes on this ambiguous reality. Thus, the presentation of a series of objective facts—such as his works, the documents about his life and the pieces of evidence about the fatal outcome of his journey—do not avoid the irremediable association of the mystery and the circumstances which still surround his disappearance with the spirit with which legends, tales and other popular narratives are composed, nor the bringing to mind of the plots of classical tragedies, such as Sisyphus—masterfully told by his admired Albert Camus—, in which the absurdity and futility of life are the main storyline.

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