The Life and Death of Dash Snow

07/22/2009 4:00 AM |

When I type “27” into Google, “Dash Snow Dead, Monday, July 13” appears third in the results. I plugged the number into the search engine after speaking to his former lover Kathryn Garcia, about his recent death. “Twenty-seven,” she said, without explaining the term. She was referring to the age at which drug-addicted icons like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin died. Many who knew Dash Snow, or were familiar with his work, now see him taking his place among the legendary “27 club.”

But the art world, and the larger sphere of culture consumers, have been reluctant to embrace his art. Even Snow himself didn’t initially consider his practice fine art. “I mean, I remember the first time I hung out with him and went to his house,” the artist’s dealer Javier Peres recalled. “He didn’t consider himself an artist per se. He was, at that point, just taking photographs to sort of remember and document what he and his friends were getting up to. And it was more like he was creating a scrapbook for everybody’s benefit, you know?”

As his exhibition history grew, Snow naturally came to think of himself as an artist. Not that this did much to convince critics; anyone who knows his work and pedigree would recognize the difficulty in taming the media. After all, Dash Snow was a member of the prominent de Menil family, described by New York Magazine as art collector “royalty.” And in the same way his privileged lineage met with raised eyebrows, Snow’s art was viewed with no small amount of skepticism. Polaroids of the artist having sex with multiple women, coke-lined turntables and ejaculate-drenched newspapers with cop headlines aren’t usually crowd-pleasers, even if they make a good media story. The artwork seems a product of excessive lifestyles, which people frequently begrudge.

Certainly, I’ve had my own reservations about Snow’s work. I don’t trust press-magnet art. I’m also not immune to the biases of the art world, though I may recognize they contain absurd double standards. For instance, we regularly place greater faith in art made by the mentally unstable than that made by people with debilitating drug addictions. Almost without fail, the latter appears lazy and indulgent whereas the former is a unique deviation pregnant with creative potential.