By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
"It's such an awkward scene," Crosher says. All circumstances seem to be working against Wade, and those on shore don't seem to know what to do.
Rephotographing the spot proved just as awkward. Altman had filmed Wade's drowning at high tide, on property he owned. Since then, that portion of Malibu Beach has become a guarded enclave for the rich and famous "who don't want to be harassed," Crosher says. "I had to figure out how to use my flash without being seen as paparazzi." She also had to shoot from below the tide line, where the beaches are public, and the resulting image is cooler and more menacing than the cinematic version. Dark deep blue recedes into black and the membrane of an incoming wave is just visible in the distance.
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But "the eeriest were the places where real people went missing," she says. From Wade, Crosher moved on to Natalie Wood's disappearance off Catalina Island, then to former Beach Boy Dennis Wilson's in Marina del Rey. Both were nighttime shots.
Three daytime images followed, including the spine-tingling all-white scene where theatrical Foursquare preacher Aimee Semple McPherson staged her own death in 1926. The series ends with that orange sunset that crowned Laguna Beach when Norman Maine wandered into the sea in the 1954 remake of A Star Is Born. The studio used stock footage. The photo Crosher took is just as gauche. "I'm not interested in tragedy for tragedy's sake," she says. "The disappearances have to be extravagant, mythical in some way."
When Wilson of the Beach Boys jumped into the marina in 1983, just after he'd turned 39, he was drunk and looking for things he had thrown off his yacht three years before. Finding them, of course, would have been a miracle. Ader never specified what sort of "miraculous" thing he was searching for when he wandered around Los Angeles at night or set off on his final Atlantic journey. Andersen, his widow, has suggested he was searching for a connection to his father, a Dutch minister killed by Nazis, who had biked from Holland to Palestine when he was about Ader's age.
The ambiguity led to hype — maybe the artist had survived and the "disappearance" was part of his art. Though Ader may have enjoyed the intrigue, Andersen had him legally declared dead in 1979.
"The thing about the sea is that you disappear without a trace — there is nothing left. It is a true disappearance," said British artist Tacita Dean, speaking of Ader in the 2010 documentary Here Is Always Somewhere Else. The openness of such disappearances comes with difficulty: police reports, setbacks, hope that drags on.
Crosher's images, ultimately spare but the result of finagling, research and some stealth, get at this difficulty better than much else. They depict the sea as an exasperating, inconclusive kind of border, and they don't soften the Pacific's jagged edges at all. In fact, that jaggedness seems to be their subject. Certainly, most of the images rely on the unflappable beauty of Pacific coastlines. But they make vanishing into ocean water seem both more real and pricklier than in the movies, not a simple surrender at all.
L.A.-LIKE: TRANSGRESSING THE PACIFIC | Las Cienegas Projects | 2045 S. La Cienega Blvd. | Through July 16
BAS JAN ADER: THOUGHTS UNSAID, THEN FORGOTTEN | Patrick Painter Inc. | Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica | Through Aug. 6
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