Disappearing into California Conceptualism at The Modern

A feature on the exhibition Disappearing California at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with an interview with curator Phillip Kaiser

In 1971, artist Chris Burden vanished for three days. No one knew where he had gone, and for those three days the artist questioned his own existence and what his disappearance meant. The reality is that he was holed up in a hotel unsure of what he was allowed to do as someone who had disappeared. He later reappeared, revealing the performance Disappearing. Unbeknownst to himself, other artists in Southern California were similarly exploring the idea of disappearance.

Four years later, Bas Jan Ader boarded a sailboat as part of an incomplete triptych entitled In Search of the Miraculous. The first part of this work was a series of photographs depicting a lonely figure wandering the streets of Los Angeles. He boarded his craft in Cape Cod as a choir of children sang sea shanties in an LA gallery. A similar scene was to greet him at his destination, a museum in the Netherlands, where he would begin the final series of photographs, mirroring the first. Ader unfortunately never made it to shore, lost at sea.

Disappearing—California, c. 1970  at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth  May 10-Aug. 11, curated by Philipp Kaiser, showcases the works of Bas Jan Ader, Chris Burden, and Jack Goldstein—three artists who seemingly shared a desire to disappear. “The exhibition represents a micro history of Southern California art,” Kaiser stated. “The show also has to be seen as a case study of early California conceptualism and how it evolved in and around Los Angeles within a rather tight but powerful network.”