When artist Dash Snow died of a drug overdose last Monday, it stirred a mad rush of news articles, ranging from the mild to the wild, in publications around the world. The rebellious young talent, who passed away at the mythical age of 27, was an inspiration to a bohemian pack of creative pals. They expressed dismay at his death, while honoring him with their recollections of his life. Meanwhile, art pundits discussed the value of his body of work; makeshift memorials popped up on the Bowery; and his last gallery, Peres Project of LA and Berlin, joined forces with Deitch Projects in New York to organize a memorial exhibition, which will be open for participation.
Beside being a wild child of the avant-garde art world, Snow was the grandson of Tibet House’s Robert Thurman, the great Buddhist scholar; nephew of actress Uma Thurman; and great-grandson of Houston philanthropists and mega-art collectors John and Dominique de Menil. Below, we offer an analysis and links to the best of last week’s coverage, present a selection of Snow’s notorious work — related to an Artkrush review of his solo show at Berlin’s Contemporary Fine Arts in 2007 — and provide details on how you can be part of his tribute show.
News of Snow’s death spread quickly, first by word of mouth and then by Twitter, blogs and mainstream media. Gawker broke the news at 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, after catching a Twitter post from one of Snow’s best friends. Roberta Smith reported his death in the New York Times ArtsBeat blog two hours later, stating that Christophe de Menil, Snow’s maternal grandmother, had confirmed it. Flavorpill was close on their heels, summarizing the first two reports.
New York Magazine, which had featured Snow in an Ariel Levy article about the downtown art scene in January 2007, joined the coverage on Tuesday night with a report from Sarah Douglas, which quoted Snow’s friends and colleagues talking about his life and death. Melissa Bent, Snow’s former art dealer, said, “Ever since I knew him it was a struggle with drugs,” while Javier Peres, his current art representative, shared, “He comes from a complicated history. As a result, he dealt with his life as best he could.” Artist Aaron Young added, “Dash was a huge inspiration for me. Sometimes people want to take shots at people who are privileged. But he made it all by himself.”
In Douglas’ article, we discover that Snow had gone through rehab in St. Barts and seemed to be in good health and a good state of mind after returning. The next day, New York Magazine writer Alexandra Peers focused on how the art market might respond to Snow’s work after his death, citing that “So far, the 27-year-old Snow’s works have made few appearances at auction, and with somewhat mixed results.”
Wednesday brought response to Snow’s death from some leading British papers. The Guardian’s Francesca Gavin posed the possibility that Snow might be a “contemporary icon” and further wrote, “In London, he is perhaps best known for his work in USA Today, Charles Saatchi’s 2006 exhibition at the Royal Academy. Snow showed typically confrontational art: 45 newspaper cuttings about American police corruption hung on the walls like a giant collage. The clippings were covered in Snow’s own semen and entitled Fuck the Police.”
The Telegraph, which was the first publication to give a more detailed biography in its obituary, reported that he was born Dashiell A. Snow in New York on July 27, 1981, at 13 was sent to reform school by his parents, began his artistic career when he stole a camera, and at 15 started the graffiti crew IRAK — with his street tag name being SACER. Meanwhile, Bloomberg.com stated that the cause of death was being investigated by the New York City Medical Examiner’s office and that his grandmother said, “He went to a detox center in March and then everything was fine for about two months.”
The New York Times also printed an obituary on Wednesday, with Roberta Smith penning the remembrance again. Smith mentioned that Snow only had a ninth grade education, and was mostly self-taught. She described him as “handsome, heavily tattooed, with waist-length blond hair and a full beard” and stated, “When he was 18, he married Agathe Aparru, now the artist Agathe Snow.” Smith also shed some light on his work: “Sexuality, violence and life’s fragility were frequent themes in Mr. Snow’s work, but there was also an air of exuberant misbehavior.”
In the LA Weekly, Daniel Hernandez shared his adventures of hanging out with Snow in 2007, when Snow came to town for his solo show (God Spoiled A Perfect Asshole When He Put Teeth In Yer Mouth) at Peres Projects. Summing up their time together, Hernandez wrote, “With Dash Snow around, you got the sense that the source of that crackling human energy in the air was found in someone devoted to the pure act of living, pushing those boundaries, accepting the risks. Accepting that sometimes those risks can come and catch up with you.”
On Friday, The Daily Beast posted a glowing article by Ana Finel Honigman, with quotes from some of his best buddies, including Ryan McGinley, Terence Koh, and Bruce LaBruce. In the article, which was accompanied by personal photos taken by Snow’s artist friends, McGinley said, “He was one of my first muses. He embodied everything that I wanted to photograph and everything that I wanted to be. Irresponsible, reckless, carefree, wild, rich. We were just kids doing drugs and being bad. Out at bars every night. I don’t think we ever saw each other in daylight. We were like vampires.”
In a second Daily Beast article, Anthony Haden-Guest discussed Snow’s notoriety and collectors, while letting Artnet critic Charlie Finch raise a question about Snow’s career and answer it skeptically, “Was Dash a legitimate artist? In terms of his practice? No!” Making a comparison to another photographer of a New York bohemian art scene, Finch adds, “Nan Goldin, of course, is all about suffering. Dash had a sense of self-satisfaction about everything he did. That somehow he was in on something and everybody else should join.”
While universally praised by most of his friends, apparently he didn’t get along with all of his family members. In an article in Heeb, blogger Menorah Jones wrote, “Last year, when I interviewed his brother Maxwell (Max had recently opened his own gallery with a solo show of his own work), I got the impression that Dash wasn’t exactly a part of that family any longer. ‘I don’t talk to him anymore,’ said Max, in a way that said, ‘Don’t ask me anything else about Dash, or I’m done.'” And Heeb also planted another unflattering image of the deceased artist in our minds, when Paul Sado wrote in his memorial, RIP DASH SNOW — A Predictable End To An Unpredictable Life, “He will be missed, his smell will not.”
A more insightful detractor, Stephen Marche, writing in the Toronto Star on Saturday, stated that most of Snow’s supporters “begin by identifying him as an artist but nobody really wants to talk about his art.” Marche further declared, “He was a fascinating muse for other artists, but his lifestyle is the most interesting thing about him, involving as it did a devotion to every kind of hedonism possible when a person has no respect for taboos and pots and pots of money.”
However, Marche did recognize that “Snow was also, in a very direct way, one of the most influential forces on popular culture” — pointing out that Vice Magazine’s Gavin McInnes used Snow as his template for the magazine’s image of “the trucker-hat-donning, skinny-jeans-wearing, Pabst-Blue-Ribbon-drinking, Converse-shoe-stepping trustafarian hipster” and that his style of death marks the end of an era.
Marche summed up his article with a tough critique: “Snow’s death, given his life and his history, amounts to a cliché. He has joined the 27 club, which is exclusive but old-fashioned. As Yogi Berra said, ‘Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.’ Snow’s tragedy was that even his death was just another pose.” That’s a harsh analysis of someone who just died, and of someone that others find so significant.
What do you think? Was Dash Snow an important artist or a poser?
View more of Snow’s mixed-media art at Peres Projects and his photography at Tiny Vices. For more information about the memorial exhibition at Deitch Projects, contact Kathy Grayson at 212 343 7300, firstname.lastname@example.org or read the announcement in DaddyTheMagazine.com.