Dash Snow’s work came of age during the dark years following 9/11 in New York City, a time when paranoia, violence and empire had written themselves large against the American consciousness. Turning this dark, visceral atmosphere back outwards in his body of sculptures, installations, photographs and other works, Snow’s pieces demanded attention as much as his behavior did, part of a downtown ensemble of artists including Dan Colen, Ryan McGinley, Nate Lowman, Hanna Liden, and others, each of whom brought their own take on urban grit and anarchic living to their work.
Dash Snow, Nobody Ever Did What We Did (2006-07)
It’s ironic then, that the artist’s first major retrospective is taking place in Greenwich, CT, at Peter Brant’s secluded estate and museum. One feels a peculiar contrast, looking at the dirty, yellowed polaroids and ink soaked sculptures on view, as the Brant’s massive polo complex sits just outside the window. Yet Snow’s energy and vibrancy is unavoidable throughout the show, even in the staid confines of Greenwich, CT. His text collages combine an immediate, cutting poetry with images of guns, American flags, skulls, and the ever-present issues of the New York Post, whose vitriolic headlines against the Middle East now feel like one of the era’s most recognizable icons, a point which is chilling in its own right.
Perhaps even more intriguing are the momentary appearances of Snow’s compatriots, perhaps chief among them the documentation of Nest, the artist’s collaboration with Dan Colen in which the pair filled a gallery space with shredded paper like a hamster’s nest, recreating a recreational action in which they would fill similar spaces and take overwhelming quantities of drugs in the surreal environment. The poster for the show, featuring his pregnant girlfriend laying on a mass of paper, manages to capture the artist’s signature abandon, as much a memorial for Deitch Projects‘ challenging and oft notorious exhibitions as it is for the artist. It’s these moments where the show is at its best, combining a picture of Snow and his friends with a landscape of New York in the years after 9/11. Even the artist’s graffiti crew, IRAK NY, bore a name conflating the U.S.’s violent wars of the era with a slang term for shoplifting. As much as of a turbulent and wild life Snow lived, the perspective his show offers places it in a striking context with his most active years.
Taken as a whole, Snow’s exhibition brings a darkly baroque turn to the early years of the 21st Century, a recollection of years past that doesn’t shy away from the reckless lifestyle that ultimately claimed him, nor does it avoid the turbulent global landscape that his life was a part of. In one work, the artist’s face appears alongside the words Bin Laden Youth, or in another, the text reads “Tell Them I’ll See Them On The Other Side,” a haunting text that echoes his last words to his girlfriend Jade Berreau. True to form, the press preview was notably somber. Passing through the exhibition, attendees were subdued, and the work clearly left an impression, as if those on hand had been offered a momentary glimpse into the gritty lofts and studios of downtown New York, a look at a counterculture that seems a far cry from the city today. The urgency and energy of the work is palpable.
Snow’s place as an artist marks a distinct point in the lineage of New York City’s ever-evolving art world, tied both to the urban street cultures (Snow was an inveterate graffiti artist, bombing walls and buildings across the city), yet came from a form of art world royalty, by being a scion of de Menil family. But his position was between spheres, with his pedigree of high art juxtaposed with his time in the streets of New York. All of this then compounded by the growing import of New York’s underground art world internationally. Snow’s work, and his impact on the city counterculture is still felt today.
A poster from Nest (2007)
Dash Snow, The Fall of America (2006-07)
Dash Snow, Untitled (Penis Envy) (2007)
Freeze Means Run (Installation View)
Dash Snow, Untitled (2000-2009)
Dash Snow, Untitled (2000-2009)
Dash Snow Untitled (“Tell Them I’ll See…”) (2006-07)
— Photos by Rae Wang for Art Observed