Why Damon Dash Is the Anti-Warhol

When fallen Roc-A-Fella records CEO, Damon Dash, reinvented himself as a DIY show thrower/art gallery debutant this past year, Gothamist wondered, “Is Damon Dash Today’s Andy Warhol?” He has his own “factory” in Tribeca, the self-titled Dash Gallery. Instead of welcoming Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger, he’s had Mos Def, the Cool Kids, and Swizz Beatz. And, last night, rather than Edie Sedgwick, Dash had a (very loosely) comparative female by his side, Erykah Badu, who co-hosted the gallery’s reception party for its newest exhibition, The Voice That Arms Itself To Be Heard. Many of the pieces by artist Kyle Goen were, incidentally, made through Warhol-favored screen printing, too. But Andy Warhol, Dash is not.

For one, Dash is too cuddly. At the party, he was shorter than you’d expect; he had thick-rimmed glasses, but Dash wore it without Warhol’s amused asexuality — Dash greeted each women with a hug and a kiss (me, with a solemn, eye’s half-opened nod). Baggy jeans ruffled against his heals as his white, t-shirt declared a statement embedded in red: “Hip hop is bigger than the government.” And that was the main difference at this particular exhibition. Warhol’s true feelings on consumerism are debated, but those on Dash’s topic of choice, politics, are explicitly made known. For the oblivious, this was reiterated by the goody bag parting gift, an “Out of Iraq” shirt.

Ironically, the venue has been viewed as a means of escape from “wack world,” or as Dash elaborates: “Every corporate infrastructure — it’s like we’re a bunch of circles trying to fit in square pegs, and it doesn’t work. And that’s what everyone here feels. Like, I don’t fit in that world.” On the second floor, this idea of escapism is represented by a trampoline-sized dream-catcher, no doubt storing up nightmares of the cloyingly aggressive Julie Chang of Fox News, who interviewed him at the gallery last week. “They kind of joke that you’re broke, I can’t tell if they’re serious or not . . . what’s going on?” But the artist that Dash selected to feature, Kyle Goen, had works on display that made it impossible to escape this aforementioned “wack world.” Actually, you were coaxed into examining it further by way of Canadian wallpaper.

Splotched with dripping mono-colored paint, each piece of the Homes & Garden series, according to Goen, features photographed members of the Palestinian resistance. They’re re-printed with acrylic ink on the Canadian wallpaper, the kind you’d see in your kitchen while opening a can of soup. In this way, you’re eased into looking at the figures longer than you intended, longer than you might’ve when the pictures of these Palestinians were originally published in magazines and newspapers. A wack world, cushioned with the familiarity of your living room.

The Black Panthers and Nelson Mandela were also scattered about the space. By putting them side-by-side with the Palestinian portraits, Goen explained, he is drawing a parallel between resistances that were, at the time, “delegitimatized” by the media. He noted that Mandela was once viewed as a terrorist, perhaps in the same way that we perceive the Palestinians in his paintings. This explains why three heads of Mandela were plastered atop camouflage.

Dash can bemoan the shattered state of his finances (“I haven’t had money in so long…”), but at least the man’s still got taste. Having Erykah Badu around helps, too.