Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Dash Snow, East Village Artistic Rebel, Dies at 27
By ROBERTA SMITH
Published: July 15, 2009
Dash Snow, who rebelled against his privileged and art-loving family to become a promising young New York artist in his own right, died Monday night at a hotel in the East Village. He was 27 and lived in Manhattan.
His death, at Lafayette House, on East Fourth Street, was confirmed by his grandmother, the art collector and philanthropist Christophe de Menil. The cause was a drug overdose, she said.
Mr. Snow was known to be a heroin addict, but Ms. de Menil said he had been in rehab in March and had been off drugs until very recently.
Mr. Snow was a rebel as young as 13, when his parents — Taya Thurman, a daughter of Ms. de Menil’s, and Christopher Snow, a musician — sent him to a reformatory-like school in Georgia. He stayed there two years. After his release, he returned to New York and began living on his own. With no more than a ninth-grade education, he was largely self taught. His art would eventually include photography, drawing, collage, installation, zines, film and video. But he began, in his teens, as a graffiti artist known by the tag “Sace.”
Handsome, heavily tattooed, with waist-length blond hair and a full beard, he soon became something of a downtown legend. He began taking Polaroids of the sex- and drug-fueled young bohemian circles in which he moved, recording his life and times in a style similar to that of his close friend Ryan McGinley and older artists like Nan Goldin and Larry Clark. Several of these images were included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
Mr. Snow had his first solo show in 2005, at Rivington Arms, a gallery on the Lower East Side. (His work is now represented by Peres Projects of Los Angeles and Berlin.) By then, Mr. Snow had become close with a group of artists that included Nate Lowman, Adam McEwen and Dan Colen, all of whom were experimenting with appropriation, or found-image, art in various mediums.
He began using newspapers in different ways, drawing in colored pencil, for example, on historic images, like a photograph of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. He made large collages out of headlines and strange, delicate, sexually suggestive ones that evoked the medium’s Dada origins. He had also started making short Super 8 films and converting them to video.
Sexuality, violence and life’s fragility were frequent themes in Mr. Snow’s work, but there was also an air of exuberant misbehavior. A 2007 article in New York magazine, “Warhol’s Children,” highlighted Mr. Snow’s art, antics and underground stature, bringing his notoriety to a wider audience. It mentioned that he and his friends liked to turn hotel rooms into “hamster nests” by littering them with torn-up telephone books.
That summer, Mr. Snow and Mr. Colen went public with this practice. In their installation “Nest,” they filled Deitch Projects, a SoHo gallery, with several feet of shredded phonebooks and invited visitors to hang out, party and add graffiti to the walls. Many cooperated.
Mr. Snow was born in Manhattan in 1981 to a family whose cultural contributions included the Menil Collection in Houston and the Dia Center for the Arts in Manhattan and Beacon, N.Y. When he was 18, he married Agathe Aparru, now the artist Agathe Snow. The marriage ended in divorce.
In addition to his grandmother and his parents, Mr. Snow is survived by a grandfather, Robert Thurman; his sister, Caroline Snow; his brother, Maxwell Snow; his companion, Jade Berreau, and their daughter, Secret, all of Manhattan.
On meeting Dash for the first time, you don’t get the impression that he is from our time. Dash, born in 1981, does not seem like a man of the year 2007. With his long hair, his hippie sunglasses and his clothes, his preference for the music of the late 1960s and the whole psychedelic sound, Dash seems someone who was catapulted from the 1960s into our time. And that is of course no coincidence, but rather a conscious revenge against an idiotic time. Or, to be more precise, against two idiotic decades. Dash Snow is a child of the eighties, and they were, despite all the Miami Vice like pastel craziness, at their core a dark and melancholy decade. It was the decade of Reagonomics and Thatcherism, the decade of the insane arms race, people had no social utopias anymore, but instead they were afraid: afraid of losing their work, afraid of the new Batemans who would mercilessly rationalise them away, afraid of nuclear war and forest dieback, and then, in the mid-eighties, the fear of AIDS came on top of it all. Work, love, life: everything was under existential threat. That was the time into which Dash was born; the year he turned twenty was 2001, which was the beginning of a new era of fear and hysteria – the so-called millennium years will be remembered as a decade characterised by the war against terror, fear of Islamism, and a general sense of exhaustion. In the cities, architecture summoned up the good old days; new forms hardly developed. It is clear that you ask yourself in such a time where and how to go on, what to take as your own starting point and it is not surprising – and indeed rather likable – that Dash Snow simply decided to leave his own time temporarily to delve, like an archaeologist, into the depths of the 1960s and 1920s to explore how an era works that believes in experimentation, in the future, and in itself. Dash frequently works with old, yellowed paper that he tears from old books or finds somewhere. On this paper, he glues collages of words and images – and the results look as if the beat poets had collaborated with Max Ernst. Wild physical desires encounter phrases from the press, cut-out word fragments run like worried policemen of meaning across naked bodies. Of course that’s not always original, but it is necessary. By turning himself into Kerouac and Max Ernst, by assuming their role and their aesthetics, he seeks the mechanics of an optimistic awakening, the wild, buoyant, highly energetic anarchy that characterised the eras of Ernst and Kerouac and that is so sadly missing today. Perhaps we get closest to Dash’s method by using the rich German term Verdichtung. Verdichten means on the one hand to condense, to shorten, clarify; on the other hand it means to kidnap objects from the everyday world of prose into the realm of poetry – and poetry is, according to the original Greek meaning of the word poeisis, nothing other than the ‘art of bringing forth’. What is here being brought forth and clarified in Dash’s poetical collages? Dash condenses words and images of our time, the newspaper headlines, the pictures of naked women and of the great criminals into Dadaist formulas which suddenly, almost violently, sum up all the promises and crimes of our day. The word collages are also Verdichtung: they disassemble the headlines into single components and squeeze them together into nonsense messages, – thus bringing hidden truths and desires to light. They are pictures that counter the large political ideologies, the Iraq War, the West’s promises of happiness, wealth, sex, and power, with images of an individual Gegenglueck that cannot be grasped with the images and collective promises of salvation made by politics and advertising. This counter-happiness can also be found in the finesse of the materials – when he glues a word onto a piece of wood, thus underlaying and charging themeaning of the abstract term through the direct sensuousness of the grained material. There are many melancholy gestures in Dash’s works, yellowed paper, a black-and-white aesthetic, as well as vanitas motifs, skulls, death symbols. But Dash does not surrender to this melancholy, he does not celebrate it, he counters it with emanations of a wild vibrancy and of absolute happiness in the here and now: images of kissing nudes, traces of sperm, pictures of wild excess, and this antidote is also an outcry against the time that allowed itself to be completely lulled and now lies exhausted on the ground. How could the energy and verve of Dada, surrealism, and the beat generation, how could the optimistic energy of the twenties and sixties be translated into our time? That is the question that comes to mind when encountering Dash’s work, be it his collages or the Polaroids he made of himself and his friends, an atlas of the great odyssey to adulthood. And the fact that Dash, the archaeologist of happiness and hero of the immediate moment does not always answer these questions doesn’t matter all that much. He's only 26; he still has time to find answers.
Anna T. Berger, Summer 2007
Geplaatst door anonymous op Wednesday, July 15, 2009