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Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 11:07 am
Things I said about Dash Snow while he was still alive

"He stuck a needle in his arm and lives and breathes no more". That's basically my reaction to the death-by-heroin of New York artist Dash Snow on Monday night. Others reacted differently, from ArtForum's "meh" blog report to Francesca Gavin's Guardian piece calling him "an icon for our times".



My response yesterday was that "I need to have more thoughts about something before I want to write about it," but today I thought I'd dig up some previous thoughts I'd published about the artist -- things I said about Dash Snow while he was still alive -- just to see what kind of composite sketch they created. I emphasize sketch, because I never met Snow -- though I knew some of his friends, like Ryan McGinley -- and didn't think about him very much.

One thing I did share with Snow was that we were both selected to represent (ahem) young American art at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Dash had a corner with some semen-spattered newspaper clippings and a record turntable, and I was the Unreliable Tour Guide. It was my job to mock the other art in the show, so when I came to Dash's little heap of yellowing books and papers I'd point to the record player and say: "Some people use turntables to listen to music, others to snort cocaine. You can snort it at four speeds, 16, 33, 45 and -- if you're really in a hurry -- 78 RPM."

Sometimes I'd take the opportunity to tell the story of Rob Pruitt, who was hounded out of the overly-PC late-80s art world after a "black show" featuring minstrelsy, and welcomed back into it after a "white show" fifteen years later that featured a long line of cocaine on a gallery floor, free to anyone undignified enough to get down on hands and knees and snort it.

The other Dash Snow narrative I did at the Whitney concerned his hatred of phones, computers, email, magazines, newspapers and other communications media, a fact which was often inserted into profiles of Snow to establish his Romantic otherness. "It's just a shame I had to read about this in a fashion magazine," I lamented, "rather than scraped in the dust of a desolate forest clearing with a ram's horn."



In The camera is mightier than the rock, my riposte to a silly anti-hipster article in Adbusters, I said: "Unfortunately, Haddow fails to get down to the serious business of art criticsm -- to tell us whether Dash Snow is better than Terence Koh, and whether Ryan McGinley is more interesting than Ryan McGinness, and why. You cannot dismiss a whole culture based on one sketchy description of a DJ mix. But the Catch-22 is that as soon as you start talking about how skulls are dull, or how Koh is better than Snow, you're basically carrying on the conversation the subculture carries on with itself on a daily basis. Jeremiads are therefore a safer option for the naysayer than prac crit."

That, by the way, was my opinion; the art world would have lost a much more talented artist had Terence Koh died on Monday.

In a comment on the Neomarxisme blog (the topic was Tokion Japan's relaunch as a magazine vaunting creative foreigners to Japanese as "exemplary") I flagged the problem with hyping edgier-than-thou scenesters:

"Matthew Damhave, who leaves a message a couple of lines above mine here, has recently set up a New York magazine which is very much a "me and my friends" magazine (his friends are NY hipsters like Dash Snow). There's no racial element there. But what is very much there is the whole idea of "me and my friends" being exemplary because other people are less interesting, even to other people themselves. This is where the whole idea gets sketchy... My people are interesting, yours are dull. This gets problematical when you're actually trying to sell a product to the people you think are dull. That problem then gets compounded when there's also a racial divide between the "interesting" and the "dull". I think Japanese readers will find this, as Marxy seems to be implying rather more politely than I am, distasteful. It's not the 80s any more." I could have added, it's not the early 19th century any more, because this is a Romantic trope (and perhaps Romantic tripe too).

There was also a mention in The post-fashion forest, a piece about Mark Borthwick. "The thing about this neo-hippy thing -- and there's a darker shadow-version of it in figures like Dash Snow and Jonathan Meese -- is that it's super-sexy. Devendra is sexy, Borthwick is sexy, Hisham is sexy, and Eye... well, according to the Papermag blog "He generates such great energy, power and sexual vibes that my friend Kazumi kept saying, "I need to go home and take a cold shower!""

And actually, I do think wild, inventive sex is what Snow probably did best, and most valuably (as documented by the Rivington Arms archive of his Polaroids, for instance). He may have written his own epitaph when he scrawled on the wall of a Deitch installation: "I MAY NOT GO DOWN IN HISTORY BUT I'LL GO DOWN ON YER LIL SISTER".

62CommentReply

krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)

The only thing I knew about Dash Snow before he died was that he'd made the "Fuck the Police" piece with the semen stains, etc. And I only really remembered that after reading about his death.

But before seeking out more information, via his Wikipedia page, there was one thing I predicted dead-on: Snow would certainly have some notable family lineage, or at the least some wealthy parents. And of course, the "Family" section of the page confirmed this for me. Great grandson of famous art collectors, who themselves came from money in textiles and oil. Uma Thurman was his aunt.

Different accounts have him living on the street starting between 13 and 15 years old. So there's this attempt to build up a romance around his life.

But honestly, I find far more romantic the life of a fellow who runs away and makes it into the arms of the "art world" without having a life of disgusting wealth to return to if things don't go quite right. Every time you hear about people living these bohemian lives in NYC, it should be second nature to ask, "on whose dime?" More often than not you'll find some millions behind them, if you follow the trail far enough.

Of course, this doesn't mean he was untalented or a bad artist. But then again, the fact that he somehow managed to work his way into the art world should not come as a big surprise to anybody. His de Menil connection doesn't make his story interesting or complex. It makes his story entirely predictable.

And as for the accounts of Snow that lionize him for flying in the face of the stuffy art world, daring them to say that his semen stains were not art, etc, etc, etc. I just find that kind of trite and boring. It's a nigh-on 100 year old artistic statement, and it doesn't constitute anything fresh or new. My argument here is not that Snow needed to be "fresh" or "new," but rather that he's being paraded around as though he was those things, when he quite obviously was not. You may be able to charm me with your semen art, but it's going to have to be for some other reason than because you're proving that semen can be art. We all know that anything can be art. Now, what should be art?


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krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 09:44 am (UTC)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, by all accounts, this dude had every advantage in life, and he couldn't even survive past age 27. The idea that he should be given this fast track canonization seems absolutely absurd to me. He made a bunch of mediocre art, and he left a baby fatherless because of his own selfish bullshit.

There is no romance to this. He was a rich kid runaway who very predictably "managed to find" a way into the world of high culture. Lo and behold, this did not make him invincible, and the drugs killed him. What a cliche.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Re: that nigga was deep yo

I don't know if your referring to the comment or Paris's need to snort coke of a black man's penis.
Maybe decadence and the meaninglessness of modern life through the narrow emphasis of money and profit seems a good reason to OD.


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33mhz
33mhz
The Queen of Overdub Kisses
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)

His death by heroin overdose at the precise age of 27 is perhaps his shrewdest act of personal marketing yet. It also strikes me as a very literal kind of Retro-Necro.


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krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)

Not really that shrewd. You have to have done something significant (or have something significant dug up) in order for that move to work. It certainly doesn't help that the world he was part of was largely invisible to ordinary people. I'm not sure it's even possible for him to be a James Dean or a Jimi Hendrix type figure in death.

Also, did he really leave behind much of a legacy for those who've survived him? Once they sell off the probably meager stores of art he had stocked up, what's left? Usually good marketing makes you a lot of money, but if things are as they really seem, he only stands to make a few art collectors a lot of money.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)

I was bored before it even began. yawnsville usa. Poor little rich kid, it comes around again and again and again. I thought you were smarter than this.


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robotmummies
robotmummies
ad reinhardt
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)

paint a vulgar picture :D


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)

I'm just back from the Berlin Botanical Gardens, as a matter of fact! Me and David Woodard sat there in deck chairs in an idyllic landscape, drinking green tea and discussing... Dash Snow!

The window is open, yer Lordship!


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vogdoid
vogdoid
vogdoid
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)

I've never heard of this guy. I'm just glad it wasn't talented young artist Dash Shaw who died.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)

DAMON DASH IS DEAD???!?


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n3koch4n
n3koch4n
n3koch4n
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)

no it was Dash Kappei


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pulled-up.blogspot.com
pulled-up.blogspot.com
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)

http://teenageteardrops.abstractdynamics.org/archives/009745.html


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
Dash Dean

A real rebel without a worry.


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krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Dash Dean

God. This is hilarious.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Snow Crash

A sensitive soul, a role model.


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silenceinspades
silenceinspades
silence in spades
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)

yeah his art sucks. totally inauthentic. if he would've been from a poor family though it would've been really good.


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magick_temple
magick_temple
magick_temple
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)

Never heard of the guy

Doubt I ever will again either


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Dash Ernst

Resale dada pro.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Dashquiat

Dash-Michel Basquiat, that is.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 16th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)

Formerly, a Dash of Snow

Now, 1 Cup of Smack


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