Whitehot Magazine

May 2007, WM issue #3: Dash Snow at Contemporary Fine Arts. R.I.P. DASH SNOW 1981-2009

May 2007, WM issue #3:  Dash Snow at Contemporary Fine Arts.  R.I.P. DASH SNOW 1981-2009
Installation view, photo: Jan Bauer, all images courtesy of Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

R.I.P. DASH SNOW 1981-2009

The End of living …….the beginning of survival.
Dash Snow at Contemporary Fine Arts. 

There are two things that the art market fetishes above all others, money and authenticity and Dash Snow is an artist who has consciously and successfully positioned himself as a brand at the intersection of these two narratives. 

Snow’s unlikely biography as a scion of the uber-rich De Menil clan who has rejected his privileged upbringing categorically in favour of a liminal existence of drugs, sex and graffiti is the stuff of which dealers dreams are made.  

The De Menil’s are elite art patrons and collectors in the same league as Carnegie and Melon but Snow escaped the gilded cage of privilege for a life on the streets. At sixteen he ran with the Irak crew, a group of sprayers whose name derived from the graffiti slang ‘rak’, to steal, and his fondness for liberating other people’s property had already landed him in a juvenile detention centre three years earlier.  

Sporting a straggly beard and a tattoo of Saddam (presumably a ‘fuck you’ to the U.S and a statement of allegiance to his crew rather than testimony to Ba’athist sentiment) Snow began to document his nocturnal misadventures with a series of polaroids and found kindred spirits in artist Dan Colen and photographer Ryan McGinley, those other downtown disciples of the via negativa.  

Snow’s polaroids drew enthusiastic, if not unexpected, comparisons with the work of Nan Goldin and Larry Clarke. Diversifying into collage and installation, his inclusion in Saatchi’s USA Today exhibition brought the already feted artist to international attention. The End of living …….the beginning of survival is the artist’s first solo show in years.

Given the aggressive hype and self-mythologising which surrounds the artist’s work, the apparent lack
of cynicism and clearly compulsive nature of the pieces included in the show comes as a refreshing surprise, as does the coherence of Snow’s vision.  

As well as the now infamous polaroids, the artist exhibits a large number of collages and assemblages. Saddam is a recurrent theme, with pages torn from the New York Post featuring the image of the former Iraqi dictator and lurid headlines, which the artist has ejaculated over and sprinkled with glitter in some bizarre onanistic frenzy.  

These call to mind the sigils that Genesis P Orridge used to solicit from the devotees of the

Temple of

Psychic Youth , private pseudo-occult acts of directed visualisation and drug-addled inductive logic. This comparison would also seem relevant in relation to the assemblages, amongst which are to be found human skulls, swastika brooches, a bottle of ‘law stay away’ oil as well as explicit references to violence and sado-masochistic sex.  

Burrough’s and Gysin’s cut-up technique is widely deployed in the collages producing a dumb-ass stream of consciousness ripped straight from the headlines. Formerly there are also recurring references to Hannah Hoch and Joseph Cornell which, along with his marked preference for materials which bear the patina of age (faded paper and flea market trophies culled with a connoisseur’s eye for the object trouvé) belie the aggressive ‘artlessness’ to which the work superficially appears to aspire.  

Less successfully the artist also shows a book ‘fort’, a tented enclosure suggestive of retreat and private, masturbatory, reverie.  

At its best Snow’s work displays an antisocial and nihilistic inventiveness, revelling in its morbid conceits (a formally posed antique group photo has all of the tiny faces carefully cut out and discarded in a pile at the feet of the sitters). At its worst the fixation with drugs, sex and death seems merely derivative and repetitive, a narcissistic bad boy schtik which simply reiterates all of the tired clichés of the abject aesthetic.  

It is interesting but perhaps hardly surprising that the market feigns amnesia and persists in presenting this carefully and minimally framed re-appropriation of the signifiers of authenticity as proof of both the artist’s and work’s ‘genuine outsider status’. A status which, genuine or otherwise, it must paradoxically destroy. It is also perhaps not surprising that in these circumstances Snow should prefer to retreat to his lair and make his own entertainment. 


Dash Snow. The End of living …….the beginning of survival. 28 April – 23 June 2007 

Contemporary Fine Arts.


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10178 Berlin  

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David Selden

Formerly an artist and  gallerist,  David Selden is a freelance writer
living and working in Berlin. He writes about music for dorfdisco.de 
and maintains the blog Unter den roten Geweihen 

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