Dash Snow (at right, far right), downtown artstar/hedonist playboy, died on Monday night, of a heroin overdose. And boy are people (by which I mean newspaper arts writers, bloggers, and twitterers) talking. And here's WHAT THEY'RE ALL SAYING!
First, the News…
Dash Snow was raised from obscurity by an Ariel Levy cover story profile in New York two years ago; predictably, then, the magazine’s coverage of his death relies heavily on that piece. After a quick summation of the hard news basics, the post goes on to summarize Levy’s article, quoting it heavily before linking to the piece itself. As in, we already wrote about this guy, we’re not paying someone to do it again.
Gawker broke the story; its report set the standard that most blogs would follow: provide the basic information, link to and quote the famous NY Magazine profile at length; wrap it up with a bland, insightless remark: “Whether you liked his art or not, you have to admire the fact that he was a unique dude.”
The Times did its MSM reporter thing: it confirmed the rumors of Snow’s death, raising the Gawker’s blogosphere rumblings to the arena of High Journalism. Otherwise, its report is dutifully dull. But someone had to pick up the phone, yeah?
Murdoch’s ever-shameless tabloid used the death to remind everyone that Snow made collages out of the New York Post, and that he’d once told Page Six it was his favorite newspaper. Expect a subscription bump, obvs.
The editors at the country’s premier fine arts/high arts magazine seem like they could care less, really, about Dash Snow — for now, anyway; their coverage of his passing amounts to a two paragraph blog post that relates the basics of the story (heroin, NY Mag profile, collage, Saatchi) and little else. More important things are happening in the art world, apparently…
Then the commentary…
The English were the first to start the critical examination: in the Guardian’s piece, Francesca Gavin asks whether Snow was “an art icon for our time,” making hyperbolic comparisons to James Dean, Jimi Hendrix and Sylvia Plath. The piece offers a more extensive biography and descriptions of his art than many of its analogues, but its insights, like Gawker’s, are of the dull variety; Gavin writes that a cliché-addled press release “says it all” — though, simultaneously, it really says nothing.
While MSM bided their time, the netizens got straight to it: Tommie Sunshine bitterly inveighed against addiction and the enabling culture in a flood of posts to his Twitter page. While ending his rant with “early death is a shame. no one deserves to die” (what about Hitler?), the remix D.J. and former addict earlier so succinctly put it: “Dash Snow was a heroin addict, he died and people are sad. kinda like being upset that when the sky is full of clouds, it rains.” Um, I guess?
Similarly, the blogger over at The Essentialist used Snow’s death to rally against something else: Adriano Goldschmied, “the leader in premium denim,” which used Snow as its spokesmodel. The blog accuses the company of “glorifying” his “’art’”: “Documenting your Sex&CokedLife with polaroids can't get more cliche, and dipping newspapers in your own sperm doesn't scream originality either. Unfortunately, galleries like The Saatchi's buy into this, just like heaps of twenty-year-olds, who live the identical life of debaucherie [sic], but as opposed to Dash Snow, weren't blessed to be born into a wealthy family.” So Snow’s death is a class thing? The blogger goes on to make a good point: “If [AG] are so willing to feature them rebellious artists from New York, why don't they feature their rebellious art?” And he goes on to create a few hilarious mock-ads using some of Snow’s more notorious Polaroids.
I THINK YOU’RE SWELL
The blogger here used the opportunity, as did many commenters across the Web, to mourn for Snow’s now fatherless young daughter. “I mean I know he was an artist and this and that,” he writes [http://ithinkyoureswell.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/dash-show-photographer-and-artist-has-died-of-a-heroin-overdose/], “but dammit, when you have a fucking kid, you have to make some fucking changes in the way you live your life because someone else, with no control over anything is involved.”
Like the English, The Canadians were quicker to get the critical conversation going: Now Toronto used Twitter (which is abuzz with Dash Snow tweets!) as a jumping off point in its piece to explore the cliché of the tortured, substance-abusing genius: “Dash seemed like he’d rather be known for running from the police and destroying hotel rooms (as well as his body). Of course the art scene ate up that myth, and encouraged him at every turn… All of this makes me wonder about the role those of us in the media play in romanticizing addiction and mental illness. It’s all too easy to tell funny stories about famous fuckups, but aren’t we reinforcing the misplaced idea that insanity breeds genius? Or even worse, the concept that creativity can come in powdered form?” In other words, drugs really aren’t cool, everyone. Everyone knows that, of course, though we might not act that way.
The Americans finally caught up this morning; Hamilton Nolan followed up his news breaking with a bit of commentary with a provocatively titled post, “The Basquiat-ization of Dash Snow,” in which he weighs in on the effusive tributes coming in from those who knew the artist well. While outlining the obvious parallels, “Dash Snow was not the artist that Basquiat was,” Hamilton writes, but premature death has a habit of turning lesser artists into legends. “Condemnations of Dash Snow as a hipster fuck-off are bound to fade away, leaving only the picture of the soul of an artist. That's how legends — and fortunes — get made in the art world.”
Menorah Jones chimes in at Heeb: “Back in the day, when I was an editor at a hip art and fashion magazine, we used to joke that Dash Snow was pretty much everything wrong with the art world,” he writes, but “he definitely wasn’t everything that was wrong with the art world… when all is said and done, he’ll be remembered for being one of the loudest voices of a group of artists that, despite their troubles, injected some energy into the same ol’ same ol’.” Tepid praise indeed. If Snow was a “unique dude,” it was in stark contrast to his eulogizers.