Dash Snow: A Life Beyond Authority

The Guardian isn’t done with the Dash Snow story. On Sunday, they ran a long profile of the artist as hardcore subculturalist. It’s the familiar case for his life as a work of art in its own right. Making that case are Javier Peres, his dealer and Kathy Grayson, a curator at Deitch. Here we’ve distilled the argument that ends with comparing Snow to Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and, even, Harmony Korine (though it’s not clear that latter makes much of a case for Snow’s importance as an artist.) Peres also tries to parse Snow’s bohemianism with a safety net to make the case that Snow was truly living the self-created life of an artist:

It was clear that Snow, through his wild life as much as the makeshift art he made from it, was viewed by both the coterie of cool young New Yorkers that knew him and the young wannabees who only knew of him, as a contemporary urban outlaw, a renegade, a self-styled outsider. At a cultural moment when those terms have all but lost their currency, Snow insisted on their continued importance, drawing on an “outsider” lineage that harked back to punk, the Beats, and beyond.

Snow’s friend Kathy Grayson, a curator at Deitch who organised the memorial show, elaborates: “There are very few wild spirits in New York any more. Everyone plays it safe and goes for the money. But the more shitty and shallow New York gets, the tougher the rebellious people get. The whole street-based counterculture may have shrunk, but it’s more diehard, and Dash was a figurehead for that kind of rebellion. He had that spirit of no fear that comes from being on your own and living by your wits. He hated authority, the police, anyone telling him what to do. He just danced to the beat of his own drum.”

In Snow the New York art scene had finally found an edgy young artist to compare with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Like Snow, Basquiat had emerged out of graffiti subculture and died at 27 from a drug overdose. Unlike Basquiat’s art, Snow’s art had not yet been commodified by that same voracious art world, though whether this was down to his refusal to play the game or the perceived notion that his work was not original enough is a question that has been left hanging in the air by his untimely death. […]

“People say he was a child of privilege,” says Peres, who knew Snow for several years before he represented him, “but he rejected his family and their wealth apart from the support he had from his grandmother, who was a kind of patron.” […]

“Dash grew up around Rauschenbergs and Twomblys,” says Peres, “and he definitely had a sensibility that he had honed as his own, but without any formal training. He was someone who was giving voice to people who were on the outside, on the margins.” […]

“His grandmother’s help and support was considerable,” says Peres, “but I think the amounts of money have been exaggerated considerably. Put it this way, I’m used to working with struggling artists before they make it, and I was shocked when Dash told me how much he was living on. It was small. Then again, he was a guy who didn’t need much. He grew up in a world where he could not reconcile his wealth with what he was feeling. I think he rejected it in order to find some kind of freedom beyond it.” […]

“He hated any kind of authority so much,” elaborates Grayson. “Not just the cops, but anyone telling him what to do. So much so that it was hard to talk to him sometimes about certain things, or even advise him. Basically, if you didn’t accept him for who he was, the way he was, he would not accept you. You could never tell him what to do [….]”

The Last Days of Dash Snow (The Guardian)