The Life and Death of Dash Snow

07/22/2009 4:00 AM |

But people like Peres Projects owner Javier Peres see the artist’s reputation for partying as a common misconception. “He comes from a complicated history,” Peres told New York Magazine. “As a result, he dealt with his life as best he could. And fought to survive as long as he could. The things he did to cope with the strain of his own life were often misunderstood as partying.”

Kathryn Garcia identified a perhaps more specific label commonly misapplied to Snow’s work: “Lifestyle artist.” “It bothers me when I see people write, ‘It was about the drugs, it was about the nightlife’ — it wasn’t, it was about his feeling,” she said. “I think [Snow’s was] a common feeling in New York at the time, it was dark. I mean, it was post-9/11… you know? Everyone had this feeling of loss, and aloneness, and not understanding, and they were rebelling against everything, every structure they could think of. And Dash was one of those people. Dash was a free spirit in a world that wasn’t kind to free spirits.”

According to Garcia, Snow’s means of coping with feeling like an outsider was to document and develop new families with people who felt the same way. The Lower East Side she describes — Dash’s community — is comprised of a small number of artists and dealers, including performance artist and Dash Snow’s ex-wife Agathe Snow, mixed-media artist Terence Koh, photographers Ryan McGinley and Dan Colen, and dealer Javier Peres. It’s hard to quantify influence while it’s happening, but the number of national and international museum shows and exhibitions the crowd has accrued is significant, to say the least. “These guys are all getting various degrees of attention,” Javier Peres told me, running down an impressive list of shows for each. “I think things are still moving in this upwardly mobile direction.”

Indeed, intense interest in Snow’s work had been building internationally over the last several years (though his notoriety remained mostly that of a local celebrity). Canada Gallery co-owner Phil Grauer was in Berlin during Snow’s first major exhibition at Contemporary Fine Arts, The End of Living… The Beginning of Survival, in 2007, and recalled the excitement. “It was a thorough, big show… it really did hold down Berlin. I was kind of proud.”

Only a few days ago, I might not have fully understood what Grauer meant. Sure, it’s nice to see New York artists draw crowds elsewhere, but at that point, Snow attracted media just by showing up. And like many, I was more familiar with the fact that he used his own ejaculate and shot Polaroids of his friends, than with how the work actually functioned. Certainly, I was not aware that the few Polaroids I had seen were just a small sample of his work. “He would take hundreds of Polaroids,” Peres told me, still astounded by his productivity, “and film was running out. We bought $1,500, maybe $2,500 worth of film. We just kept stocking it up whenever we found a large quantity of it so we would have access to it.”