Installation with mirror, headstone and chair
July 15, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Dash Snow, seminal artist, is dead of an overdose.

Born into art world royalty, Dash was the great-grandson of prominent collector Dominique de Ménil.

On the streets at 13, Dash gained notoriety for his graffiti as 'Sace' and his antics with the Irak crew.

Famously profiled in a 2007 NYMag article, his debauched art was a reflection of his rough existence and vitality.

While contemporaries and dealers are quick to cement his status as an icon, others reserve a far harsher judgement.

He is survived by all of Manhattan.

Previously
posted by infinitefloatingbrains (149 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wherever will we go now for our polaroids of hipsters snorting coke off of erect black penises?
posted by felix betachat at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2009 [17 favorites]


I am not familiar with him as an artist, and so I shall not address myself to that. I will say that Dash Snow sounds like the name an especially mediocre screenwriter would concoct to name a character who is a shallow, uninformed stereotype of an artist, and death by overdose is exactly the cliched end that screenwriter would offer to the character.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


There's some NSFW stuff in that 'seminal artist' if you click 'next' a couple times. And obviously NSFW, not like you need to think about it for a bit kind of NSFW.
posted by delmoi at 1:49 PM on July 15, 2009


Don't you see, Astro, that his cliched name, cliched career and cliched end were planned from the very beginning as a living performance to illuminate the inauthentic and self-referential New York art-system?

Brilliant.
posted by Avenger at 1:52 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Perhaps I'm narrow, but after looking at some of his work when finally I clicked that Irak link and found... Bart Simpson spraypainting something? Really?

Well, I stopped there, because honestly. If the day comes that I'm ever described as a promising artist, I hope the bar's set higher than that.
posted by mhoye at 1:53 PM on July 15, 2009


I cannot let this obit go without a mention of Snow's Saddam Hussein tattoo.

You think I'm kidding.

[Refrains from grave pissing]
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:53 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


"There was so much more to come," noted Francesca Gavin, visual arts editor for the magazine Dazed&Confused.

Ɵ_Ɵ
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:54 PM on July 15, 2009


Naked hipsters drinking PBR. [nsfw, eyes, souls]
posted by Avenger at 1:55 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wherever will we go now for our polaroids of hipsters snorting coke off of erect black penises?

There will be another trust fund kid to replace him soon enough, no worries.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Art resembles livejournal.
posted by Free word order! at 1:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Poor boy. He just couldn't overcome the twin burdens of being rich and white.
posted by dortmunder at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2009 [13 favorites]


From foxy_hedgehog's link:
"I was just down for it! I'm down with anyone, even if they're bad people, if they're just, like, anti-American, you know what I mean? This is a series I'm working on," he pointed at some collages on the wall with lots of pictures of Saddam Hussein, whose likeness is also tattooed on Snow's arm. "They're old headlines, and they all have come on them. Yeah, mine."
There's a purpose and value to the jester/jackass who spouts the terrible, dark truths to the masses. But this is not it.

I'll respect the dead, but I won't respect his "art."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


While ejaculating on NY Post pages certainly makes a statement, I don't know how well it qualifies as art.
posted by spitefulcrow at 2:00 PM on July 15, 2009


I seriously wish someone would pay me a ton of money to jerk off on a newspaper.
posted by The Straightener at 2:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


While I'm at it let me point out that if smearing jizz all over things is art, then our middle schools are full of Picassos.
posted by dortmunder at 2:01 PM on July 15, 2009


Never heard of this dude but looking up his stuff, I think we're better off.
posted by dead cousin ted at 2:02 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Many years ago a friend was in a gallery meeting called when an artist suddenly passed away. The gallery director was very somber and told all of the gathered employees 'this is a sad day, and so I want to be respectful. No one is to use this as leverage for a sale.'

The meeting dispersed and within 5 minutes, every one of the 10 phone lines was lit up with consultants whispering into the receiver "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but..."
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 2:02 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have to confess I haven't heard of him, but the work I've seen since his obit has been going around looks pretty much like what I would expect from a trust fund kid with his background.

"Snow has been working with his own ejaculate a lot lately; his contribution to the Saatchi show was a piece called Fuck the Police, which featured sprays of his sperm on a collagelike installation of tabloid cutouts, headlines about corrupt cops."
Wow man, that's fresh and original and transgressive.

And death by overdose pretty much seals the deal.
Meanwhile there are artists out there who continue to perfect their craft, grow and explore without all the tabloid sensationalism.
posted by 2sheets at 2:05 PM on July 15, 2009


Ah! So by "seminal artist," you mean "jizz-lobber!"
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on July 15, 2009


Death of a salesman.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:09 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: has been working with his own ejaculate a lot lately.

What, too soon?
posted by vibrotronica at 2:09 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


A collector is art world royalty now?
posted by fire&wings at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2009


Yep.
Not completely shocking. He liked hard drugs. He did this funny but dumb thing where he piled a lot of coke on a turntable, and replaced the arm of the record player with a straw. So, you know, you can snort it up as the platter spins.
Too bad, he was young.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds like he had more than a Dash of Snow.
posted by Bort at 2:11 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not completely shocking. He liked hard drugs. He did this funny but dumb thing where he piled a lot of coke on a turntable, and replaced the arm of the record player with a straw. So, you know, you can snort it up as the platter spins.

ITS ART
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:12 PM on July 15, 2009


Dash's art seems like crap, and he doesn't appear too bright either, but I think his role is best seen as a muse for other, better artists -- a sort of totemic figure in the hipster/scenester demimonde, a world whose raw, reckless, and dumb energy did provide some real inspiration for people like Ryan McGinley, in much the same way that Sid Vicious and Warhol's various hangers-on did for others at different times. In this way, Dash was less an artist than a piece of art himself, and his death by heroin overdose at 27 in a posh Lower Manhattan hotel the only fitting and inevitable conclusion to such a life.
posted by decoherence at 2:13 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Collectors decide the fates of artists and the prices of their works. Where the money goes, so goes the fashion.

So yes, collectors who donate to museums, support the community, and stake their reputation on the art they buy, are royalty.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 2:17 PM on July 15, 2009


Dammit. Because if there's one thing the contemporary art world lacks, it's privileged egomaniacs short on actual talent and long on self-promotion.
posted by scody at 2:21 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyone reading who wants to put the case for his art? I'd be genuinely interested. I try hard to resist kneejerk philistine "my three-year-old could do that" responses to this sort of thing, but this guy makes it soooo difficult to resist.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:23 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]



I seriously wish someone would pay me a ton of money to jerk off on a newspaper.
posted by The Straightener at 2:00 PM on July 15 [2 favorites +] [!]


Have you ever considered a career at the New York Post?
posted by lalochezia at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Looks like he is having a lot of fun in those pics. There are worse ways to go than a heroin overdose, and worse times to die.

My sympathies to his family and those who loved him.

As far as art goes, I suspect he really just flat out didn't give a shit, and the "real" art, if any, was in his own amusement of himself. Is there an ironic form of narcissism?
posted by Xoebe at 2:29 PM on July 15, 2009


Is there an ironic form of narcissism?

Is there any other kind?
posted by JaredSeth at 2:30 PM on July 15, 2009


I know this is an obit thread and all, and I'm sorry for his young daughter and genuine friends he left behind, and his family.

But this--

Saatchi got them a fancy hotel room on Piccadilly. They had to flee it in the middle of the night with their suitcases before it was discovered that they’d created one of their Hamster’s Nests, which they’ve done quite a few times before. To make a Hamster’s Nest, Snow and Colen shred up 30 to 50 phone books, yank around all the blankets and drapes, turn on the taps, take off their clothes, and do drugs—mushrooms, coke, ecstasy—until they feel like hamsters.

Speaking as someone who has worked as a hotel chambermaid, all I can say is Christ. What an entitled rich boy asshole.
posted by jokeefe at 2:31 PM on July 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


Anyone reading who wants to put the case for his art? I'd be genuinely interested. I try hard to resist kneejerk philistine "my three-year-old could do that" responses to this sort of thing, but this guy makes it soooo difficult to resist.

Ten bucks says your three-year-old can't ejaculate on the New York Times.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on July 15, 2009 [12 favorites]


Anyone reading who wants to put the case for his art?

Perhaps this. Althought I appreciate decoherence's point of view that "Dash was less an artist than a piece of art himself." I think that is a kind way of describing these type of characters.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:31 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


decoherence: Dash was ... a piece of art himself

I think the phrase you were looking for is "a piece o' work."
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:31 PM on July 15, 2009




Anyone reading who wants to put the case for his art? I'd be genuinely interested. I try hard to resist kneejerk philistine "my three-year-old could do that" responses to this sort of thing, but this guy makes it soooo difficult to resist.



I wish I could. He was a friend of friends of mine, I used to see him out a lot, and his art but to be honest the whole Honkey Death Culture art scene was too pretentious for me to take the stuff seriously. I can't say I got much out of what I recall from his work. I was more used to relating to him as another fellow long haired head more than an artist- he was cool on that level.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:33 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ten bucks says your three-year-old can't ejaculate on the New York Times.

The worst bit is I actually predicted this wisecrack while pressing "Post Comment".
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:34 PM on July 15, 2009


Street Carnage (offshoot of Vice Magazine) posted four [1 2 3 4] heartfelt obits today.
posted by Adam_S at 2:34 PM on July 15, 2009


I kind of suspect the ridiculous, over-the-top hipster stunts he did were a conscious decision to distance himself from his family. He couldn't make any "conventional" art - or even merely controversial art - he had to actually live and breathe it. I always thought it showed how desperate he was to be an artist, that he was willing to be mostly disowned and go to these great lengths - all so his own reputation would be so ridiculous and outlandish that it would overshadow where he came from.

But I agree with decoherence, he was more a muse than anything. He actually lived out the fantasy that Ryan McGinley and others created in their work. Still a sad, if kind of predictable, loss.
posted by bradbane at 2:34 PM on July 15, 2009


Sorry to hear about his death. From the little I know he was not a happy person, a runaway at 13. Being born into a rich family is no guarantee for being brought up lovingly or well.

When I visited a grave on Fishers Island off the coast of Connecticut this March, a local pointed out the "Demon Eel", mansion, saying it was terrible luck for any caretaker who worked there, as previous caretakers had all died violent and terrible accidental deaths. I asked how the name was spelled. D-E M-E-N-I-L.

Can't help thinking Dash would have liked knowing his relatives were known as demon eels.

May he rest in peace.
posted by nickyskye at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Ten bucks says your three-year-old can't ejaculate on the New York Times.

Sucker's bet. Giuliani made that illegal back in '99.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2009


wow. i've never heard of the guy before, and I won't even pretend to make any kind of judgment about his work, but jesus christ, people.

does it not occur to you that you all sound like old farts poo-pooing the latest artistic trend? for every Picasso, Warhol and Anger, there's a legion of you guys going "that's not art! that's just vulgar garbage!"

is snow a good artist? i don't fucking know. maybe that's why I won't go around telling everybody he sucks.
posted by shmegegge at 2:41 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


LOLSEXDRUGSROCKNROLLTRUSTFUNDDEBAUCHERYBLOODHEROINDEADYOUNG

Really? Really?

Oh to be rich, young and drug-addicted with a camera....woe unto you, soul-heavy debauched blonde people!
posted by nevercalm at 2:41 PM on July 15, 2009


That Gawker article had Miracle Whip Zing! ads all over it. I think he would have liked that, what with Zing! being a tool to get together with your friends and crap all over things, and Miracle Whip having the appearance of frothed semen.

That's right. Frothed semen. Enjoy your sandwich.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:42 PM on July 15, 2009


does it not occur to you that you all sound like old farts poo-pooing the latest artistic trend? for every Picasso, Warhol and Anger, there's a legion of you guys going "that's not art! that's just vulgar garbage!"

So everyone who's trashed as a bad artist is as good as Picasso?

Seriously, there's great, provocative, unconventional art that pushes boundaries and causes discomfort and is still important and -- yes -- good. There's also self-indulgent hackery. It is quite possible to tell the two apart. I like the former. I have no patience for the latter. That doesn't make me an old fart who hates new artistic trends; it makes me a middle-aged fart who doesn't suffer fools gladly -- of which there are plenty in the art world (as I can attest from having spent most of my life in or around said world).
posted by scody at 2:48 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


My favorite part is where the young rich kid who's busy destroying himself with drugs is encouraged to new, dizzying heights of flame-out by all these people who are now rending their garments about his young death...

Seriously, so someone's fucked up with a camera? I'm not a grrr-grrr too old guy, I've spent a decent amount of time fucked up with a camera myself. I've known tons of "life of the party" types who celebrate and view their lives with a cocked eyebrow. One kid has connections and a habit and suddenly he's the martyr of the LES? I'm sorry that he died, but....please....
posted by nevercalm at 2:53 PM on July 15, 2009


I read this story in the NYT today and I had to check to see what decade it was. I guess this scene persists in a big way, but it seemed to me like such a 1983 story.
posted by stevil at 2:53 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


So everyone who's trashed as a bad artist is as good as Picasso?

yes, you've completely captured what I meant to say, which is impressive considering how little what I actually wrote resembles your translation.
posted by shmegegge at 2:55 PM on July 15, 2009


Eh. His art is a little too Harmony Korine for me.
posted by contessa at 2:56 PM on July 15, 2009


Street Carnage (offshoot of Vice Magazine) posted four [1 2 3 4] heartfelt obits today.

In general Snow seems like Tucker Max with a whole bunch of bohemian posturing heaped on top (he was a friend of a friend, or rather an acquaintance of an acquaintance). None of these obits do anything to dispel that impression, although #1 is cute and sad in a "my buddy died" kind of way, not a "what a tragedy for art" kind of way.
posted by nasreddin at 2:58 PM on July 15, 2009


yes, you've completely captured what I meant to say, which is impressive considering how little what I actually wrote resembles your translation.

What did you mean to say? That we should blindly kowtow to whatever the current trend in the art world should happen to be, in fear of being called closed-minded fuddy-duddies? What a bunch of bullshit.
posted by nasreddin at 3:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


He died too soon late.
posted by tommasz at 3:00 PM on July 15, 2009


Here's something I've been thinking about lately that may apply. I don't know anything about this particular artist, and from the few pics I've viddied he looks pretty boring, but I've definitely noticed that Mefi often has a pretty marked bias against the first of the two kinds of art I describe here, so I thought I might try to defend it in theory a little, if not in the particular case of this Mr Snow.

Two Kinds of Art:

1. 'Art-art' – “High” art as a game the goal of which is to figure out a novel mode of expression that constitutes what seems like the next natural step in the progression/evolution of your chosen tradition or medium. This is a perfectly respectable game played by people who enjoy it. These people are often but not always quite privileged. Sometimes, if you look at a piece of art-art and you're not 'in the game', you might get something from it, but more often you probably will not. This is okay with art-artists, because you're not the intended consumer.

2. 'Life-art' – Art as a tool to try to understand life better, to experience the beauty in life, etc. Good life art is informed by art-art and takes methods developed by art-artists and applies them for its own purposes. You don't have to be invested in any 'game' to reap its rewards; as such, it probably seems less 'elitist' to most people. Since its sole purpose is not to avoid 'what has been done before' at all costs, it may make use of the occasional cliché or archetype that has been tried and true. If you're fanatical about the 'novelness' of your art, you may think works of this kind of art are 'stupid' because 'that shit has been done before', and you don't care that it 'works' for some people.

Personally, I like 'life-art' better, and that probably shows in my definitions, but I have good friends who like 'art-art' better and are very invested in it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
posted by skwt at 3:03 PM on July 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not really awesome to rip on people who just died, particularly. With that said, I expect that at least some of these pics have shown up on the Look at That Hipster Fucking site. Who knows, maybe in time this guy would have grown up and done some great stuff; I don't really show people most of what I wrote when I was 27. These aren't, like, bad photos or anything, it's just an edgy! aesthetic that seems very dated and insincere and vapid. Would he have gotten better at this? Yeah, maybe. More to the point, though, he wasn't like hurting anyone with this stuff, and he had friends and family, and that sucks.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:07 PM on July 15, 2009


Er, I meant obit #4. #1 is the worst kind of pompous garbage.
posted by nasreddin at 3:09 PM on July 15, 2009


I don't have much to say about his art, as I haven't seen a great deal of it, but I'm willing to believe that his Polariods were beautifully composed and that his jizz-paintings are at least as interesting as the breast milk paintings done by Karen Finlay. It's this that I hate:

Today, Basquiat is regarded as a major artist of his era, and his cool factor is untarnished; his contemporary Julian Schnabel, who was right there with him, didn't die from drugs, and today is regarded as a bit of a sellout, directing Hollywood films and pouring his time into huge pink apartment buildings for the rich in Manhattan.

So Schnabel (whose "Hollywood" films include The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is a sellout because he went on to live a richly productive and sucessful life with his family in New York? As opposed to the artistic value of self-destruction? Feh.
posted by jokeefe at 3:11 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


"you all sound like old farts poo-pooing the latest artistic trend?"

Since when has the latest artistic trend been equated with "good"?
And if you don't follow art, that's cool, but polaroids of naked people doing drugs and smearing body fluids on things probably peaked in the 60's, so we're a little late to diss the trend.
posted by 2sheets at 3:12 PM on July 15, 2009


What did you mean to say? That we should blindly kowtow to whatever the current trend in the art world should happen to be, in fear of being called closed-minded fuddy-duddies? What a bunch of bullshit.

oh man, you've got me, too! holy shit, you and scody are really seeing through my thin facade.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on July 15, 2009


does it not occur to you that you all sound like old farts poo-pooing the latest artistic trend? for every Picasso, Warhol and Anger, there's a legion of you guys going "that's not art! that's just vulgar garbage!"

That doesn't make criticism of Snow's art illegitimate. Not every self-consciously cutting edge artists is a Picasso, Warhol, or an Anger. Very few are. Not every "latest artistic trend" has to be treated as a sacrosanct expression of creative genius.

I'm not an artist, but living in Berlin really turned me off to the model of artistic identity embodied by Snow and glorified in the NY Mag article, and which I came into contact with during my years in NYC. Craft and discipline weren't part of the equation; instead, being an artist became a type of lifestyle choice. Branding and cheap, mediagenic shenanigans a la "Hamster Hotel Room" took precedence over creating enduring, significant, and meaningful work.

It was such a chance and such a pleasure to meet and get to know artists once I moved here. They did what artists do: spend long days working hard in the studio, thinking hard and reflecting thoughtfully on their practices and next steps, making things that ask you to see the world differently.

This is a loss to Dash Snow's friends and family. I don't see it as a loss to art. Snow represented the triumph of hype and self-generated persona in lieu of substance, and that's a trend I'd like to see the art world leave behind.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:16 PM on July 15, 2009 [14 favorites]


"Seriously, there's great, provocative, unconventional art that pushes boundaries and causes discomfort and is still important and -- yes -- good. There's also self-indulgent hackery. It is quite possible to tell the two apart. I like the former. I have no patience for the latter. That doesn't make me an old fart who hates new artistic trends; it makes me a middle-aged fart who doesn't suffer fools gladly -- of which there are plenty in the art world (as I can attest from having spent most of my life in or around said world)."


Scooooodeeeee, come on out to Culver City with me! We'll get drunk on free wine! (To hell with poverty!)

Fortunately for my middle-brow art, growing up in the Midwest has left me constitutionally retarded regarding self-promotion.
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


after having read the obituary posts by his friends, i'll just say that this quote - "it’s a travesty what the disease of addiction can do" pretty much sums it up. So his family had lots of money - that can be just as difficult for a kid as a hard-luck childhood, though in a different way. I'm not that moved by his art, but I'm sorry for his family and friends.




I seriously wish someone would pay me a ton of money to jerk off on a newspaper.
posted by The Straightener at 2:00 PM on July 15


wait, that guy on the C train was an artist?
posted by dubold at 3:21 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


shmegegge apparently has nothing else to say besides sarcastic eye-rolling bullshit. Good comeback, dude.
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:21 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read this story in the NYT today and I had to check to see what decade it was. I guess this scene persists in a big way, but it seemed to me like such a 1983 story.

This was my reaction upon reading about these characters too. I didn't know that this kind of avante grade, downtown grunge-art scene existed anymore, at least since the early 90's. I figured it had all moved out to Williamsburg and now Bushwick. Could anyone familiar with these worlds explain whether Dash Snow's art/graffiti scene is synonymous with the Williamsburg hipster thing most people are familiar with, or are these totally non-overlapping scenes?
posted by decoherence at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2009


Since when has the latest artistic trend been equated with "good"?

It hasn't, but since when has "I don't know anything about art, but since I don't like this I'm going to say he's a shit artist" been anything but ignorant bullshit.

his work may in fact be bullshit. but until someone gives something better than weak snark as a reason why, the rest of this thread is just old men telling the kids to get off their lawn.

here's an example of the difference:

scody: Dammit. Because if there's one thing the contemporary art world lacks, it's privileged egomaniacs short on actual talent and long on self-promotion.

haha! boy, he sure let that dead guy have it! man, I wish I could be that witty!

someone imaginary who could have been more reasonable but has not, as yet, shown up in the thread: well, i'm not a huge fan of his art. when I think of [controversial art type x], and the kinds of statements it has made, I think of lot of the guys who came before Snow did it better. His work shows a lack of depth. His [example of Snow's work] is really pretty shallow when you think about it. look at [facet of example from above.] it... and etc...

does everyone have to write a god damn thesis? no. should people who just want to snark be silenced? no. can pitiful and ultimately weak-ass snark be called out? shit yes.

so yeah, maybe Snow sucks. maybe not. but what's in here are a lot of people coming to snap judgments, (mixed with some people who are already familiar with his work but who just love to ride the snark train) and basically forming the ignorant rabble that, throughout history, has always existed to talk shit about art they don't understand. bad art can be excoriated, (hell, I've done it myself) but not if you're just chiming in with a worthless bit of puerile snark.
posted by shmegegge at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


To make a Hamster’s Nest, Snow and Colen shred up 30 to 50 phone books, yank around all the blankets and drapes, turn on the taps, take off their clothes, and do drugs—mushrooms, coke, ecstasy—until they feel like hamsters.

Doing this in your own house sounds like it would be a blast. Doing this in a hotel where you have your fun and then pay the bill along with a hell of a tip to the clean up crew sounds like something that you could tell great stories about later. Doing this and running away in the night sounds exactly like the kind of thing an entitled douchbag would do.

I hadn't heard of him before this, and based on the little bit I'm finding out, I'm not too sad that I won't be hearing much from this point forward.
posted by quin at 3:24 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


In regards to Adam_S' links: I have no heart like theirs, except #4 wasn't a total asshat.

Obit #1: To all you New York media types scoffing at his art and calling him a rich kid:
You are not a New Yorker and you never will be and that drives you nuts because you moved here to be part of something but got rejected because you are a fucking pussy.


Obit #2: clips from news sources, and "mad crazy" Polaroids (nudity, blood, drugs)

Obit #3: I never met a guy with a stupid tattoo I didn’t instantly love. It shows you get it. Dash Snow is also the only guy I’ve ever seen get into a fight with a huge smile on his face the entire time. Bull Terriers do that too. They wag their tails when they go into battle.

Obit #4: I chose to remember Dash not as a diseased person, but as someone who just radiated pure, awesome, A-fucking-plus energy. Isn’t there a picture of him somewhere riding a horse down the Bowery? Can someone find that please?

Maybe Dash Snow's work simply wasn't for critics.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


talk shit about art they don't understand

So you claim to understand and appreciate his art. Share that, instead of rolling your eyes all the time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Today, Basquiat is regarded as a major artist of his era, and his cool factor is untarnished; his contemporary Julian Schnabel, who was right there with him, didn't die from drugs, and today is regarded as a bit of a sellout, directing Hollywood films and pouring his time into huge pink apartment buildings for the rich in Manhattan.

So Schnabel (whose "Hollywood" films include The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is a sellout because he went on to live a richly productive and sucessful life with his family in New York? As opposed to the artistic value of self-destruction? Feh.
"

Well, to be fair, a lot of Julian Schnabel's stuff was pretty bullshit during the '80s, and he was popular because he was a scenester. Like, wow, man, your broken crockery is so… well, ass to look at, frankly. You sure took painting to a new and boring place! Basquiat wasn't nearly as consistent as everyone remembers (in part because a lot of the museum pieces of his really are some of his best work, at least as far as I know—the only private shows I've seen have been kinda disappointing), but he also didn't have the long decline of his artistic powers that nearly everyone goes through. I mean, I saw a show of David Hockney's latest photography a couple of months ago—and I generally prefer his photography to his paintings—and it was the worst photoshopped bullshit you could imagine, like, yeah, David, that's what the find edges filter does to a tree. Congratulations for making a Mondo 2000 mag cover. But Hockney's older stuff at least generally still holds up, whereas Schnabel's always been best remembered for the gawkiest and dumbest work of his career.
posted by klangklangston at 3:32 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


well boo-fucking-hoo shmegegge. Sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities by thinking that anyone that jizzes on old newspapers is less than a genius. I don't know shit about this guy but I can tell he's a fucking hack.
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:33 PM on July 15, 2009


so yeah, maybe Snow sucks. maybe not.

i feel inspired by him - i'm going to wait a year, dig him up, skull fuck him, shred 30 phone books into his rib cage and let hamsters live in it

all for art, man, all for art
posted by pyramid termite at 3:35 PM on July 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


~o
posted by orme at 3:35 PM on July 15, 2009


does everyone have to write a god damn thesis? no. should people who just want to snark be silenced? no. can pitiful and ultimately weak-ass snark be called out? shit yes.

so yeah, maybe Snow sucks. maybe not. but what's in here are a lot of people coming to snap judgments, (mixed with some people who are already familiar with his work but who just love to ride the snark train) and basically forming the ignorant rabble that, throughout history, has always existed to talk shit about art they don't understand. bad art can be excoriated, (hell, I've done it myself) but not if you're just chiming in with a worthless bit of puerile snark.


Oh shut up. This crap is why I hate MeFi sometimes. It goes like this:

1. A thread about something controversial is posted.
2. Some people snark about it.
3. Mr. John Fucking Wayne stomps into the thread and goes "SNARK SUX LOL GET A LIFE I BET YOU CANT DO THAT."

Now, in what way is comment style #3 any better than comment style #2? They're both relatively devoid of useful content--they're just opinions. But #3 isn't even on topic. It doesn't say anything interesting or meaningful about the post. It's just spit-flecked snark about snark. And because a lot of people like to think of themselves as "not the kind of people who snark," the thread quickly degenerates into whining about hipsters or whining about whining about hipsters.

And yes, I know that this comment is whining about whining about whining about hipsters. But come on.
posted by nasreddin at 3:36 PM on July 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:38 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


has always existed to talk shit about art they don't understand.

That's a condescending and unwarranted assumption. They don't agree with you, and that's something different.

I remember snickering with my friends about Andres Serano and Robert Mapplethorpe when we were in high school. Ha ha, Piss Christ, giggle giggle. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate that art isn't always what you see in museums and that it speaks in many voices. And as I grew older, I also came to see that much of the rhetoric circulated by gallerists pushing new artists was hot air, and that the art world, driven by its preoccupations with market value and the Next Big Thing, had a pretty lopsided signal to noise ratio, and I think Snow's work fell into the latter category. The discussion by two people more involved in and knowledgable about the art world than I in this thread sums things up nicely (see dialogue between "flossy" and RollsRoyceRevenge" ).

I'd love to hear something that would change my mind. Instead of being so dismissive of people who don't like his art, you could offer the nuanced insight that would help us understand why his work was important.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:41 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


oh man, I know you asked me to shut up, but I hope you can forgive me if I don't.

But #3 isn't even on topic. It doesn't say anything interesting or meaningful about the post. It's just spit-flecked snark about snark.

well, yes and no. in this case it's a spitflecked attempt to bring up how metafilter has the old man contingent that comes in and spews bile about everything they don't understand. cf: hip hop and comedy. there are, in fact, people who have been contributing to this thread (finally) something more valuable. even the simplest comment at least had substance.

but so much of this thread has none. and I'm not hating on snark. I snark all the time around here, and we all know it. I'm saying it's bullshit to come into an art thread, just as it has been in music threads and comedy threads, and talk about how much that type of thing sucks. and i'm not even talking about saying you don't like something. there's nothing wrong with that either. but go through this thread and see how many people are saying anything like "i never liked his work." or "eh, it's not my thing." see, instead, how many people are making empty criticisms of his work as if they understood it and could qualitatively dismiss it as garbage.

people can do that if they want, but yeah I'm going to call them out on it.
posted by shmegegge at 3:45 PM on July 15, 2009


Well thank god we have you to call people out, internet warrior.
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


. — ☃
posted by Guy Smiley at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


people can do that if they want, but yeah I'm going to call them out on it.

You show those strawmen what for!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's a condescending and unwarranted assumption. They don't agree with you, and that's something different.

I assure you, I'm not bothered by people not liking his work. check my first comment. I hadn't even heard of the guy before now. I have no idea if his work is good or not. personally, some if it intrigues me, but I'm not about to pretend like I have any authority to judge it good or bad.

what bothers me is that there IS such a thing as great masses of people who don't understand something deciding that they're going to tell everyone how much it sucks. what especially bothers me is that they exist so much on mefi. what makes it worse is that people who DO understand the work then join in without actually saying anything substantial or providing any real information, at least on metafilter.

see threads around here on Sarah Silverman, or Nas, or plenty of other visual art threads. it sucks. and that's what's bothersome.

at this point, I'm posting too much and in danger of ruining the whole thread, so I'm gonna take a break. come back later and hope to continue a decent discussion if one is happening. later, all.
posted by shmegegge at 3:50 PM on July 15, 2009


There isn't that much to understand. Click on delmoi's link. It's a picture of a girl beating a dude off while he makes out with another girl; it's not the Dead Sea Scrolls, man.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:53 PM on July 15, 2009


I agree with shmegegge wholeheartedly.

I've never been a fan of Snow's work really. And I think he was part of a larger downtown scene in the early 2000's that was both too tied to the fashion world and too easily able to quickly make incredible amounts of money for their own good. The reasons I'm not a fan is not because of any retrograde sense of 'good' art grounded in notions of craftsmanship, some notion of beauty, or even, a lack of modernist rigor. Rather, I think the art in this scene was politically problematic in that it proposed a kind of utopian youth culture that took as its unspoken and unconsidered premise access to incredible cultural and financial privilege.

Still, from an art historical standpoint, I am actually increasingly interested in this scene as symptomatic of the most recent gilded age. Snow was undoubtedly part of one of the most visible and prolific groups of artists, musicians, gallerists, etc of his generation in NYC. And I think soon it will be clear that even critical historians will have reason to come to terms with this group, in order to more fully understand the fate of contemporary art in a 21st century, post-9/11 climate of financial excess. I also think that it is impossible to deal with Snow's work without considering how it emerges from his previous work as a graffiti artist - and I think much of one's opinion of his work will be determined by one's opinion of the figure of the privileged, petty criminal embodied by the graffiti artist.

Finally, much like Michael Jackson's death coming at the very moment when monolithic popular culture seems to be crumbling, in a much much smaller way, Snow has died at just the moment when the cultural universe that supported his work seems in danger of dissappearring.
posted by huffa at 3:54 PM on July 15, 2009 [10 favorites]




how many people are making empty criticisms of his work as if they understood it and could qualitatively dismiss it as garbage.

I think I've found so many of the endorsements of and encomiums to his work equally empty. Again, I'm eager to hear something that would change my mind. I used to make Jeff Koons jokes all the time. Then I read a New Yorker profile of him and I don't make those jokes so easily any more.

If you'd like people to rethink his work, it would help if you could offer another perspective. For example, how would you compare his use of bodily fluids to Andres Serrano or Chris Ofili? To me, these other artists have crossed this controversial terrain with work that is far more interesting, beautiful, thoughtful and with far greater skill and craftsmanship. What does Snow add to the conversation?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:56 PM on July 15, 2009


I'm not bothered by people not liking his work

Yes, you certainly are. Just about every comment you've made so far has been critical of anyone who doesn't appreciate his work.

If you appreciate and understand his work so much better than everyone else, such that it invalidates all other opinions, please do bother to explain why, before scattering off all troll-like.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:56 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this one of the only obit threads without a lone '.' ?

There's a quote in the NY Mag piece where someone points out that these kids are in a 'phase', and he wouldn't be surprised if their work soon became much more tame. I'd like to think that the primordial phase, the "That's it? I don't get it." phase of some artists work blooms with discipline and time. Who knows what he'd have created had he lived.
posted by splatta at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2009


... and I think much of one's opinion of his work will be determined by one's opinion of the figure of the privileged, petty criminal embodied by the graffiti artist.

I disagree. I don't share that perception of the graffiti artist. Rather, I think Snow's tags and other related graffiti work offer ample evidence of his fundamental lack of talent and skill as a visual artist. Compare it to the artists documented in Style Wars, or contemporary street artists like Swoon.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2009


or plenty of other visual art threads. it sucks. and that's what's bothersome.

I actually thought of posting this myself, yesterday. I didn't, because I felt that the possibility of a nasty/snarky reaction was pretty high... and whatever one thinks of the whole situation, who needs that in reaction to a 27 year old artist dying from a drug addiction?
posted by R. Mutt at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2009


see, instead, how many people are making empty criticisms of his work as if they understood it and could qualitatively dismiss it as garbage.

Here's my problem with Dash Snow's work:

It's offensive and controversial for the sake of being offensive and controversial. I don't have a problem with violent, sexual, or otherwise controversial art when it has something interesting to say, but this is just someone being as far out there as he can get for the purpose of getting attention.

I also believe that there's at least a little correlation between how much effort is put into a piece of art and how much it has to say. Jerking off onto news clippings just doesn't cut it for me.

And to give myself some cred so you know where I'm coming from, I'm a theater student at UC Berkeley with a somewhat regular habit of visiting art galleries and a very regular habit of seeing stage shows, particularly premieres of new work. I'm also a huge fan of the oft-maligned "performance art" genre. So there.
posted by spitefulcrow at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2009


I have to seriously disagree with you on this one, shmegegge. If there's one place where the majority of observers are qualified* experts on the convergence of media and masturbation, it's on the Internet (and on MetaFiter no less than any other site). We may not be able to define artless grandstanding, but we know it when we have to wipe it off with a moist towelette.

*I was going to say "bona fide," but even I wouldn't touch that pun with a ten foot pole. Not that I'm saying I have a ten foot pole. Fuck it. Never mind.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:02 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, let's talk about art. Only suckers and dealers will claim that "art" is something that exists outside of a community that passes judgment on it. Art happens in the interaction between people who make stuff and people who say: "This! Now this is something I like to listen to/look at/touch/taste. Let's find out who made this and pay them to make more things like it!" It's always been this way, since the first hunter-gatherer chipped a rock into the shape of a naked woman. People interact with things and decide whether or not to let that thing tell them something about themselves. They might care about form, or about biography, or about politics or about craft. Or they might not. The essential thing is people deciding what to canonize.

I think about Anselm Kiefer, who was just a self-indulgent student of the equally self-indulgent Josef Beuys, running around the cities of Europe in a dress taking pictures of himself making the Hitlergruss. A pompous little prick trying to rile people up, until enough Europeans decided that this provocation, which he kept calling "My Occupations," was interesting. Made them think about the relationship between masculinity and fascism and memorials and geography. And it made them laugh about something that previously they could only think of in tears and anger. And Kiefer has been pulling off the same trick, with increasing sophistication and skill, for over thirty years now. Not all of his stuff is good, or pleasant to look at, or even always that profound. But taken in aggregate, the work and what's been done with it stands as the record of a conversation between a maker and his community.

All this is to say that what you make of Dash Snow says a lot about you and your values. His photographs and installations might make you laugh, or fill you with a vicarious yearning, or make your dick hard. But for every person who has that reaction, there is another guy who thinks his stuff is self-indulgent wanking that says nothing of value. Its part of the process of deciding what we, as a culture, will let have a privileged position in the conversation that determines who we are. So argue about it, please. But by all means, don't imagine that, simply because gallery owners, dealers, journalists and scenesters tell you that something is worth canonizing, it must be so. Part of knowing what to do with art is having the courage to holler bullshit when you see it.
posted by felix betachat at 4:10 PM on July 15, 2009 [19 favorites]


I think about Anselm Kiefer, who was just a self-indulgent student of the equally self-indulgent Josef Beuys, running around the cities of Europe in a dress taking pictures of himself making the Hitlergruss.

Hey, this is funny. I love Anselm Kiefer (most historians I've met do, just like most historians have a thing for German history because there's so much of it and it's so damn heavy) and I didn't know about this...um...phase in his career.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:13 PM on July 15, 2009


yes, you've completely captured what I meant to say, which is impressive considering how little what I actually wrote resembles your translation.

I think scody did a good job, actually. It's pretty much the case that you don't want to assert anything about what his art achieves or communicates because it is new and basking in taboo, and so now it's this inscrutable artifact that defies analysis and will only be properly judged by history.

And so let's just set aside the fact that the type of imagery he's fond of has been admissible in art for a while now without being called vulgar, and that the conceptual framework of a lot of his stuff is pretty clear at first glance (e.g. the diptych of Pat Tillman and an anonymous man with his child running through a battleground in what is presumably Iraq), and so an examination of its mechanics should be tractable.

I don't really feel like getting into a discussion of why I think this dude was a bullshit artist because it doesn't really matter and I might be wrong. I do want to point out that the tendency to waive your capacity for analysis is what lets bullshit art thrive (in whatever capacity you might define it). I don't want to dismiss the possibility of the existence of art that works in a basically inexplicable way, but I think that conclusion can only be reached after an attempt to explain.
posted by invitapriore at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2009


Wow, this is the first obituary post in a long time without any "." moments of silence: based entirely on that, I have decided this so-called "Dash Snow" must've been the hugest asshole in the universe.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2009


If you'd like people to rethink his work, it would help if you could offer another perspective. For example, how would you compare his use of bodily fluids to Andres Serrano or Chris Ofili? To me, these other artists have crossed this controversial terrain with work that is far more interesting, beautiful, thoughtful and with far greater skill and craftsmanship. What does Snow add to the conversation?

This actually brings up a very interesting point alluded to in my previous comment but no explained. So, I'll try to respond to it as best as I can. None of the qualities mentioned above have been taken as given at any time in 20th century art. In fact, many art movements - Dada perhaps most well know among them - took one of their central motivations the questioning that qualities like beauty or craftsmanship or even thoughtfulness should have anything to do with truly radical artwork. I would say that Snow's work is not contingently, but necessarily, made without skill. His work is precisely not like Serrano's, which attempts to present what he identifies as deviant through the most conventional signifiers of beauty. (I actually find Serrano's work far less interesting and more politically reprehensible than Snow's for precisely this reason. I think Serrano deals in the spectacularization of deviance in a way that doesn't actually question its status as deviant but rather transforms that deviance into an aestheticized experience.) Rather, Snow's work exists not as a representation of deviance, but as a deviant act in and of itself. And that is a very different thing.

The problem is that this strategy no longer really works. Snow's work is immediately and unproblematically collected and poses no great challenge to the critical or financial functioning of the artworld.

(Also, calling bullshit on work is definitely important. But there is an almost ritualized language of dismissing avant-garde art - especially in the U.S. - and much of the central phrases of this language were quote almost verbatim in many of the above comments. At the very best, that is mostly repetitive and uninteresting - at the worst it serves to totally block any attempt to come to terms with any challenging art work at all.)
posted by huffa at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have no idea if his work is good or not. personally, some if it intrigues me, but I'm not about to pretend like I have any authority to judge it good or bad.

Every individual has their own opinion as to whether they like his "art" or not. In my case: I don't like it. YMMV.

There is no "authority" beyond myself that can determine for me whether his creative output was "good" or "bad." YMMV.
posted by ericb at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Also, calling bullshit on work is definitely important. But there is an almost ritualized language of dismissing avant-garde art - especially in the U.S. - and much of the central phrases of this language were quote almost verbatim in many of the above comments. At the very best, that is mostly repetitive and uninteresting - at the worst it serves to totally block any attempt to come to terms with any challenging art work at all.)

I disagree that this is at all a US-centric phenomenon (this claim seems to derive from a reflexive American fetishization of Europe as "more cultured"). More to the point, though, the avantgarde wouldn't be much of an avantgarde if it was universally admired. Once your art starts being "accessible," it's a good sign that it's no longer making any radical statements at all. The kind of people who appreciate avantgarde art (and there are many such people on MeFi) are a lot more prone to falling into the other extreme, a pathological terror of displaying anything that could look like "philistinism." And Dash Snow was certainly the beneficiary of this terror.
posted by nasreddin at 4:22 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


.

For his mom and dad and siblings and cousins and fifth grade teacher, and everyone else who knew him. Heroin is a hell of a drug.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:30 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I disagree that this is at all a US-centric phenomenon (this claim seems to derive from a reflexive American fetishization of Europe as "more cultured").

I wasn't necessarily talking about Europe. But, ok, there is no real way to debate this one way or the other, and I certainly admit to it being a basically general statement made more out of personal frustration than anything else.

More to the point, though, the avantgarde wouldn't be much of an avantgarde if it was universally admired. Once your art starts being "accessible," it's a good sign that it's no longer making any radical statements at all.

Sure, Suprematist paintings being shown in MOMA during the height of the Cold War certainly says something about their potential as protagonists in a revolutionary Communist struggle. So, yes, it is often the case that broad acceptance occurs simultaneously with the foreclosing of certain radical possibilities. But I think this fact has almost nothing to do with whether or not a debate - among sympathetic readers - about a given artist or work should rise above the level of old cliches about the irrelevance of avant-garde art.

The kind of people who appreciate avantgarde art (and there are many such people on MeFi) are a lot more prone to falling into the other extreme, a pathological terror of displaying anything that could look like "philistinism." And Dash Snow was certainly the beneficiary of this terror.

No disagreement from me here - like I said, I think Snow's work was anything but productive politically (even though I'm interested in it historically). But I didn't see anybody doing that in this thread.
posted by huffa at 4:34 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the comments on the New York magazine article called him the "Paris Hilton" of the art world. That sounds about right: child of a wealthy family who hasn't done a whole lot to deserve the fame and money that is showered upon him.
posted by Frank Grimes at 4:39 PM on July 15, 2009


Me: fires jizz over shmegegge's comments

I'm looking for a patron or a gallery to sponsor the above work. Any takers?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:40 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: whining about whining about whining about hipsters.

(That's three or four layers of meta, depending on how you tally it up).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2009


But I think this fact has almost nothing to do with whether or not a debate - among sympathetic readers - about a given artist or work should rise above the level of old cliches about the irrelevance of avant-garde art.

Well, part of the problem is that we, culturally, don't have a vocabulary anymore for talking about bad art. We only have two broad categories: "tacky," aka "too lowbrow" (HDR, Thomas Kinkade), or "pretentious/ivory-tower/my four-year-old could do that," aka "too highbrow." So it's only natural that people express their judgments about Snow and other artists of his kind in terms of the general orientation of their art, which is highbrow. It's unreasonable to expect people without formal training in art criticism to be hyper-articulate about what they think is wrong with a piece of art.
posted by nasreddin at 4:45 PM on July 15, 2009


felix betachat, this is one of the best comments I've seen so far on metafilter regarding art's place in the larger cultural conversation. Thanks!
posted by stagewhisper at 4:45 PM on July 15, 2009


I am wondering why art critique should try to keep the same form and values (giving a benefit of doubt, thoughtfulness, seriousness, respect, taste) as it always had when the art itself has freedom to shred them. It would be easy to build a case for that some types of art (like these works) are better criticized with oneliners and sudden bursts of opinions than with traditional comparing to predecessors, trying to understand connotations and meanings, artists role in society etc, etc. Critique as snapshot is not necessary bad thing, but the new interesting thing here. If it gets repetitive, well it is a feature.
posted by Free word order! at 4:55 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's unreasonable to expect people without formal training in art criticism to be hyper-articulate about what they think is wrong with a piece of art.

There is an important debate here on notion of cultural capital and access to specialized (and elite - in the sense of class) language. I tend to fall on the side of having more faith in the ability of non-specialists to respond not only to visual art, but many cultural products that are often seen as only intelligible by some kind of elite. I don't think that people not trained in art criticism are restricted to a 'lowbrow' or 'highbrow' response.

In other words, I think that is not simply a lack that creates these particular cliched responses. I think it is an actual culture of refusing to consider certain cultural products at all. Or to put in within another set of terms - there is not a simple lack of a non-specialized discourse about certain kinds of art, there is a developed discourse of dismissing and ignoring that art. I don't think this discourse has emerged from any one source - but it has become a feature of much art in the 20th century - and I think a very negative one. In that it confines the political possibilities of radical art tremendously. There have been attempts to resist this - Malevich and co. taking suprematist paintings around the countryside or Russia, Heartfield working entirely on the covers of AIZ (a magazine with a print run in the hundreds of thousands), artists in the 70's like Martha Rosler and Fred Lonidier making art in collaboration with unions and migrant laborers.

I do not think you have to be trained as an art critic to resist this culture. (Although, I think many artists and art critics would have everyone else think so.) I think, merely, you have to be willing to resist the notion that certain kinds of cultural products are merely the product and province of an elite group, and that anyone outside of that group has no claim to interpret what is going on. Resisting the restriction of art to an elite specialized audience is of central importance to any hope for a future, politically radical art. (Not that Dash Snow was trying to do any such thing, btw.)
posted by huffa at 5:10 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm looking for a patron or a gallery to sponsor the above work. Any takers?

Huh, I read that last bit as "Any taters?"
posted by YoBananaBoy at 5:16 PM on July 15, 2009


Huh, I read that last bit as "Any taters?"

Now, jizz on taters: THAT is art, my friends.
posted by contessa at 5:20 PM on July 15, 2009


In other words, I think that is not simply a lack that creates these particular cliched responses. I think it is an actual culture of refusing to consider certain cultural products at all.

It sounds like you're engaging in some wishful thinking. What is the difference between "a culture of refusing" and a "lack"? Are you implying that if you somehow remove the hegemonic superstructure of dismissal, Joe Nonelite will magically be able to talk about avantgarde art he dislikes in a compelling way? That's pretty naive and condescending, in my opinion. Avantgarde art presents itself as radical and novel, which is something that appeals to the art world but doesn't appeal to anyone else. Why should it be surprising that people judge it based on what it claims to be? As if contemporary art is so undoubtedly valuable that you need to be brainwashed into dismissing it or something.

The question of art's revolutionary significance or whatever is pretty overstated--no offense. For this kind of thing to be meaningful, you have to be able to "sell" your art to consumers that belong to non-elite groups, and any discussion of that happening at this point is purely academic. (I'm friends with a guy who worked closely with Martha Rosler, and although there's a lot of talk in that milieu about making political art, no one has found anything approaching an answer to this problem. I haven't seen anyone at their shows who doesn't wear three hundred dollar jeans.) The idea of a unified political and artistic avantgarde is a relic of the Sixties; the Situationists demonstrated that in practice it was completely unworkable.
posted by nasreddin at 5:27 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


in this case it's a spitflecked attempt to bring up how metafilter has the old man contingent that comes in and spews bile about everything they don't understand

What about those of us who know a lot about contemporary art, routinely advocate here for other contemporary artists we think are/were talented or even great (see the recent Francis Bacon kerfuffle), and think that Dash Snow wasn't a very interesting artist?

Is that okay? Is it okay with you if we spew bile about something we've spent lots of time and money learning about?

I'm sorry the guy's dead, because I imagine it's a great loss to his family and friends, but he wasn't an interesting or innovative artist. As others have said, Polaroids of The Artist and His or Her Bodily Fluids were old long before Snow was even born.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:29 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


In fact, many art movements - Dada perhaps most well know among them - took one of their central motivations the questioning that qualities like beauty or craftsmanship or even thoughtfulness should have anything to do with truly radical artwork.

...

I think it is an actual culture of refusing to consider certain cultural products at all.


These things might be related.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:33 PM on July 15, 2009


Well, this is his crew, and this is how they reacted to that (terrible) NY mag piece by Ariel Levy. There's a lot of juvenile misogyny and anti-semitism in there. Should I still take his art seriously? Maybe. But this is the scene which idolized and nutured him.
posted by jokeefe at 5:44 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm in the camp of old fuddy-duddys that like to piss all over "art". Although I'm actually a a year younger than this dead guy. I don't do heroin though, maybe that's why my mind isn't "expanded".
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:49 PM on July 15, 2009


On the other hand, hold that thought. This comment from the Irak page I just linked to is really worth reading, IMO:
After reading that article I just felt sad. It was just so unauthentic, so cheap. Its like, “there may be a poet inside dash snow”. its like what? so is the world that starved for any talent and poetry that there gonna do a write up like this guy is fucking passolini, and then say, yep he hasent really done anything yet, but oneday he could, perhaps, maybe. Its like the Paris hilton of art, just goes to parties and doesnt really do anything. Thats a bit harsh actually, im sure those guys actually have a lust for life, and do beleive in what they do, but atleast recognise that they, you, whatever, are getting an insane amount of hype for doing not so much. Atleast have some humility and do something constructive with that hype. I mean, you dont owe me or no one shit, but outta respect for people that came before, think of all the great artists, graffiti vandals, poets etc etc wouldnt it makes sense to just be a bit humble? Not blow too much smoke up each others bums? To not fly in the face of all the hard work other people have put into the world so some small ember of art, culture, passion, just the fucking shit that is worth living for is still burning.
Dont know why im asking you, but i guess these are your friends. Its just like, if this is how contrived and fake the NY art world is, I dunno, it just makes me sad. It doesnt feel empowering, life affirming, or exciting. It makes me feel like, if this is how cheap it is, why bother. I mean only people that dont know would feel that that was a genuine thing. Why not aim a bit higher, inspire other people that are on teh level. The article basically made me feel like art in NY sucks……You know, its like with graff, when your a kid you hold it in such high regard, like its some magic thing, and then when you acheive all the things you wanted from it, theres no pot of gold, its kinda empty.
Its like what happened to reality? I know your doing tshirts and shit, something ive done for a living. And im sure the realities of that have hit you. That its hard damn work, when every one thinks your just cruising and making easy money, and lording it. But they dont get how hard it is to make a living from that shit. Thats the reality, shit like that should be told to other kids, so they understand that you gotta work hard to get shit done, instead of them just hating and being jelous and thinking they have no power to do it themselves.
posted by jokeefe at 5:49 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


nasreddin - Definitely not talking about a superstructure that is either absolutely determining anyone's behavior or whose absence would simply allow for another behavior. But I'm not entirely satisfied with how I first articulated this, so let me try again. I think that the elitism of the contemporary artworld (a decades long entrenched elitism in the US and Europe) is inseparable from a dismissal of that world by people not involved with it. Both are intertwined political positions, and, I think both are unhelpful. I don't think that either is completely determined in some old-school Marxist sense by a superstructure, but I think they are positions occupied within a discourse that predates its participants. My point, however, is precisely that there exists the possibility of taking other positions - and, moreover, that this is a possibility not only open to elite, artworld insiders but people outside that world.

I never said that anyone in any avant-garde has ever successfully 'answered' the question of making political art. That certainly doesn't mean that the the attempt should be given up.

Also, was I way overstating the revolutionary potential of contemporary art? Yes. In a sort of self-conscious hyperbole. Not because I believe that there is going to be a unified political and artistic avant-garde in a 60's new left or 20's communist sense - but because, whatever revolution/or-whatever-has-taken-that-phenomenon's-place-in-the-contemporary-world is a process that I think art should (although it rarely does) participate in.
posted by huffa at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2009


These things might be related.

absolutely, it is a frustrating and intertwined process that has produced both an attempt escape on the part of many avant-gardes and an attempt to expel these same avant-gardes by many popular mainstream cultures.

I just hope to point out that the fact that this is the case does not lead to the fact the it is necessarily always the case - or somehow inherent to every radical artistic act or every layman's observation of such an act.
posted by huffa at 6:07 PM on July 15, 2009


What was interesting about the Polaroids is that they were Polaroids and Polaroids have a precedence that he ends up evoking. What he then did with that was a little underwhelming, but he did it.

My sympathy to his family and friends.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:24 PM on July 15, 2009


How does one draw a line that separates art from marketing? I don't know...but this is douchebaggery that can be done only because his father was famous (I guess that qualifies as fame).
posted by hal_c_on at 6:24 PM on July 15, 2009


In fact, many art movements - Dada perhaps most well know among them - took one of their central motivations the questioning that qualities like beauty or craftsmanship or even thoughtfulness should have anything to do with truly radical artwork.

THIS. When I looked at Snow's work I was immediately reminded of the sacrilege- the desecration of art and the ridiculing of it's lofty intentions- so present in Dada. The use of inferior materials, the impromptu settings, the offensive playfulness- it's all there. In some ways, Dada set a standard for the radicalization of the avant-garde that we still see playing out today, albeit in very different circumstances.

I'm not saying Dash Snow gets automatic elevation to the status of Great Artist. But while many comments here dismiss him outright, he's clearly in play, playing with, the historical narrative of art.

Huffa said this better than me. In fact, I'm wondering if he is secretly my old art history professor from when I was a student.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 6:34 PM on July 15, 2009


also:


.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 6:35 PM on July 15, 2009


The clusterfuck of worship is funny. Esp. the comparisons to Basquiat - uh Basquiat could paint.NY mag is the nesting ground of 30 something ny'ers via Ohio who are missing their downtown Michael Jackson. A trust fund baby who had enough money to OD - The HORROR!!!!
posted by hooptycritter at 6:46 PM on July 15, 2009


"What is the difference between "a culture of refusing" and a "lack"? Are you implying that if you somehow remove the hegemonic superstructure of dismissal, Joe Nonelite will magically be able to talk about avantgarde art he dislikes in a compelling way? That's pretty naive and condescending, in my opinion."

How is it more naive and condescending than assuming that Joe Nonelite will never be able to talk about the avant garde in a compelling way?

"Avantgarde art presents itself as radical and novel, which is something that appeals to the art world but doesn't appeal to anyone else."

ZOMG RONG. "I'm so three thousand and eight, you're so two thousand and late," if I may quote the esteemed lyricists of Black Eyed Peas. Radicalism and novelty are also at the soul of the vast majority of pop art, from music to television to whatever. Not only that, but a large part of recent cultural critique (by which I mean the last 40 years or so) is that people are so hungry for the radical and novel that they'll pay for it to be sold back to them.

"The idea of a unified political and artistic avantgarde is a relic of the Sixties; the Situationists demonstrated that in practice it was completely unworkable."

But you're falling into the trap of assigning weirdly archaic modernist aspirations to both Huffa's argument and contemporary art.

While I agree with you that the political power of art is wildly overstated, that doesn't mean that it's negligible, nor that a united platform is necessary for the avant garde to function politically or artistically.
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorta from the same place and a slightly earlier time as Dash, certainly the graffiti thing, the downtown NYC thing (actually grew up there though), much less money. I've seen things he's done and I can... what, appreciate them? even if they didn't do much for me aesthetically. Drugs are fun, but they tend to whittle you down to the bare essentials of your personality and your talent and it's fucking rare that the little nub of who you are ends up being something particularly worthwhile. Hedonism is awesome, but it crawls up its own ass.

I'm sorry for his little daughter, I bet he would have lived to want to have a part in her life. He had a great beard though, a good strong beard.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Another sign of the Crapocalypse - Saatchi, cattelan and hirst are the 3 other rocking horsers.
Gasgosian is somewhere high in the Book of Skankavation.
posted by hooptycritter at 6:52 PM on July 15, 2009


A junkie checks out. MeFites pile on.

Film at 11:00.
posted by sid abotu at 7:17 PM on July 15, 2009


Wow, this is the first obituary post in a long time without any "." moments of silence: based entirely on that, I have decided this so-called "Dash Snow" must've been the hugest asshole in the universe.

I keep on reading this sort of thing and it saddens me. I'm not going to try to argue either way for or against Dash's lifestyle or his decisions or the "artness" of what he did, but I will say through my extremely limited encounters with him that the man had nothing but love and welcoming for everybody he met. I realize that everybody gets the benefit of "nicest guy ever" when they die, but it really was one of his most immediately identifying features. He may have been wreckless and out of control a lot of times, but I'm genuinely bewildered where this whole idea that he was some egotistical, cooler-than-thou art brat came from. Is it because of how he looked? Is it because you associate him with someone who meets that description in your area? Or is it just backlash against all the out-of-touch middle-aged art rags making corny-ass allusions to "the 27 club" and Basquiat and calling him the icon of the double-zeroes or whatever? No matter what, it's a damn shame to see that all that undue baggage laid on his head - regardless of how badly he fucked up.

RIP Dash.
posted by carrybagman at 7:59 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying Dash Snow gets automatic elevation to the status of Great Artist. But while many comments here dismiss him outright, he's clearly in play, playing with, the historical narrative of art.

But isn't every other crappy artist with an MFA claiming the same thing?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:00 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


That art looks much more fun to make than it is to look at.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:54 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


he's clearly in play, playing with, the historical narrative of art.

Oh cripes. Damn near contemporary artist I know, have worked with, or have had to edit atrociously written essays about claims the same thing. (Though they usually take 3000 words or so to get there.)

If historical narrative is such a playground, I think a few children need to come in for naptime.
posted by scody at 10:10 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


His death sets the bar for "artist" just a tiny bit higher...while I can't imagine anyone taking him seriously as an artist, and I have very low standards, there plenty just like him infesting New York even now. Another young trust fund cretin, interchangeable with him, has probably already occupied the space he took up while alive.

What a tragic fucking loss. Not.
posted by motown missile at 10:16 PM on July 15, 2009


So, he came, he saw, he's gone, and whether or not he conquered is up for grabs, right? Still, shredding 30 to 50 phonebooks to produce something as ephemeral as a messy hotel room Hampster Nest is admirable effort, even if you just do it once. Those things are tough.
posted by paulsc at 10:53 PM on July 15, 2009


Now, see, it's retarded shit like that, that makes me want to defend the guy.

I mean, I think it's one thing to say, hey, his work is pretty bullshit (and he seemed to be at least moderately aware of that), it's another to vent your weird-ass bile. How did his life make your life any worse? He lived in New York, he took money from folks who weren't gonna give you any money, who the fuck cares if he was a trust fund cretin in his free time? It'd be nice if he spent his days curing cancer, and I'm as jealous as anybody, but to break out a Wayne's World Not?

How many MeFi power pellets you think your death is gonna get? .
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 PM on July 15, 2009


.

IMHO, an untimely death is always something to mourn, no matter what they 'gave' the world during their life on it.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:13 PM on July 15, 2009


I detect a lot of bitterness and envy here. I am just waiting on some bitter, shrivelled old cunt invoking Godwin's Law.

Don't really have a strong opinion on the art other than that it's a wee bit meh but, by all accounts, he didn't shit on people from a height and doesn't appear to have been a bad guy. Considering the hagiography that the Pop Paedo got here less than three weeks ago it seems particularly churlish.

Hope getting the bile out makes you feel better.

.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:27 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that the elitism of the contemporary artworld (a decades long entrenched elitism in the US and Europe) is inseparable from a dismissal of that world by people not involved with it. Both are intertwined political positions, and, I think both are unhelpful. I don't think that either is completely determined in some old-school Marxist sense by a superstructure, but I think they are positions occupied within a discourse that predates its participants. My point, however, is precisely that there exists the possibility of taking other positions - and, moreover, that this is a possibility not only open to elite, artworld insiders but people outside that world.

I don't disagree with you about that. But you seem to be framing the issue as a matter of reconciliation--if only the art world could be less elitist and the nonelites less dismissive, we could all get along. I don't think that's the best way of looking at it, since it assumes that the current social configuration of the art world--and the current social position of avantgarde art--is some kind of eternal verity that has to be adjusted to. I'm perfectly willing to concede that people shouldn't be reflexively dismissive of avantgarde art, but for that to happen there needs to be a radical reevaluation of what exactly it means to be an artist, and especially an avantgarde artist. (And the pseudo-populist fetishization of things like graffiti really isn't helping.) In other words, there's a lot more wrong there than just a culture of dismissal, and within the context of the art world/nonelite relationship as it exists today, dismissal is a perfectly justified reaction.

How is it more naive and condescending than assuming that Joe Nonelite will never be able to talk about the avant garde in a compelling way?

My point was that it was condescending to assume that the kind of art one likes has inherent value and is a priori deserving of serious good-faith consideration. I'm by no means saying all nonelites are excluded from talking about it, but I certainly consider it naive to think art-crit-speak is anything but the professional argot of a privileged discursive community. You seem to think of avantgarde art as something like math--something that any self-respecting organic intellectual should be able to speak compellingly about. I think that's wrong, and that this is one of the things that blinds the art world to its own hermeticism.

ZOMG RONG. "I'm so three thousand and eight, you're so two thousand and late," if I may quote the esteemed lyricists of Black Eyed Peas. Radicalism and novelty are also at the soul of the vast majority of pop art, from music to television to whatever. Not only that, but a large part of recent cultural critique (by which I mean the last 40 years or so) is that people are so hungry for the radical and novel that they'll pay for it to be sold back to them.

Maybe. The kind of radicalism and novelty I'm talking about is different, though. For whatever reason the public's taste in visual art tends to be a lot more conservative--in particular, it privileges color, form, and composition over conceptual or political content. In the avantgarde art world, it's often the other way around.

But you're falling into the trap of assigning weirdly archaic modernist aspirations to both Huffa's argument and contemporary art.


I think a lot of politically-oriented contemporary art does have naive and archaic political aspirations, or at least has some inarticulate ideas of what it's trying to achieve that upon examination break down into naivety or archaism. I don't know if that's the case with huffa, though, so you're right.

While I agree with you that the political power of art is wildly overstated, that doesn't mean that it's negligible, nor that a united platform is necessary for the avant garde to function politically or artistically.

I have no idea what it would mean for the avantgarde to "function politically or artistically" today, on any level. And I'm not sold on art ever really being politically effective except when it fits into already-accepted schemas (like Guernica or nineteenth-century realism). Yes, the Russian 1920s avantgarde stuff that everyone likes to cite was really a novel and interesting interpretation of the Revolution, but the speed with which its promoters were marginalized and destroyed makes it more of an argument for the other side.
posted by nasreddin at 2:06 AM on July 16, 2009


.

(That said, I can't shake the feeling that this bit of news is a performance piece)
posted by dabitch at 4:37 AM on July 16, 2009


Informer, you no say daddy me Snow me I'll go blame,
A licky boom boom down
posted by iviken at 4:58 AM on July 16, 2009


Truer words were never MC'd, iviken.
posted by Mister_A at 6:15 AM on July 16, 2009


How many MeFi power pellets you think your death is gonna get?

This depends almost entirely on how many people I manage to take down with me. I'm aiming for at least one full continent, but I may have to settle for a subcontinent. Life is hard that way.
posted by aramaic at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2009


"My point was that it was condescending to assume that the kind of art one likes has inherent value and is a priori deserving of serious good-faith consideration."

And that point is entirely wrong. It's not at all condescending to think that any human endeavor deserves a good faith consideration—exactly the opposite. Inherent value's a red herring here, anyway.

"I'm by no means saying all nonelites are excluded from talking about it, but I certainly consider it naive to think art-crit-speak is anything but the professional argot of a privileged discursive community."

Art-crit speak is the professional argot of a privileged discursive community, but is not necessary to speak compellingly on avant garde art, just as the lingo of composition can be helpful but is not necessary to speak about avant garde music in a compelling way. This is especially true once you realize that there are no pure formal markers for avant garde art.

"You seem to think of avantgarde art as something like math--something that any self-respecting organic intellectual should be able to speak compellingly about. I think that's wrong, and that this is one of the things that blinds the art world to its own hermeticism."

And I think you don't know what you're talking about. The only defining feature of avant garde art is formal novelty and experimentation. While there's a language and a history there, no special training is required to look at a piece of work, put it into an experiential context, and render an aesthetic judgment, especially now that people's lives are more mediated than ever. If a person can talk compellingly about what they had for lunch, they can talk compellingly about avant garde art.

"I have no idea what it would mean for the avantgarde to "function politically or artistically" today, on any level. And I'm not sold on art ever really being politically effective except when it fits into already-accepted schemas (like Guernica or nineteenth-century realism). Yes, the Russian 1920s avantgarde stuff that everyone likes to cite was really a novel and interesting interpretation of the Revolution, but the speed with which its promoters were marginalized and destroyed makes it more of an argument for the other side."

Historian, live today. First off, the only works that have, at least as far as I can see, true formal novelty are those in emerging media. Your complaint that the avant only functions in established tropes is silly, as you grant that there's ever been an avant garde—every piece of artwork ever made has had precedent and has fit in with contemporaneous power structures. You might as well argue there's never been a revolution or political avant garde either; in the lens of history, the Bolsheviks flourished by adapting Czarist power structures even as they sought to create a new society. So for avant garde art to function politically or artistically, it has to internally define the terms of success or failure and be formally novel. Let's take an example from the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest 6 (2008, v.2, issue 2, #6). In it, Hillary Mushkin describes her project, Far From War, in which people are taped envisioning their neighborhoods as war zones. As a piece, what's aesthetically compelling is what she exercised the least control over—people talking. They're edited shots of people in their neighborhoods, usually in a place they have a stake in, home or business. While politically, it's ostensibly an anti-war piece, with obvious ties to Iraq policy, at least a few of the folks make distinctions about legitimate violence versus illegitimate violence. Her video's formal novelty is intentionally low—it fits into an established genre pretty easily. But by putting these videos up in and around the neighborhood, the people in the neighborhood interact with not just the piece, but each other, spinning off one of those cliche goals of contemporary art—dialog. The formal novelty is revealed by the specific, even as it fits into a broader narrative of community art. As for success, places where the video had been put up report that the videos sparked further conversation, and since the goal of the piece was to have people examine their distance from war, it was considered successful by the artist.

Current avant garde art has modest goals both politically and formally, and because of that, it's not hard to see art that achieves those goals. But by insisting on the modernest conception of a single program, a single way to measure success, and then decrying avant garde art for failing to meet that high standard, is bizarre and anachronistic. Further, the days when purely alienating forms were novel are over. As I just showed, it's not hard to talk about work in a way that's not steeped in hermeticism, and while I wouldn't call Snow's work avant garde particularly, plenty of people here have written about it without any real barriers to entry, some compellingly and some not.
posted by klangklangston at 8:50 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


And that point is entirely wrong. It's not at all condescending to think that any human endeavor deserves a good faith consideration—exactly the opposite. Inherent value's a red herring here, anyway.

I disagree. I think all human endeavors either need to justify themselves to the broader public in some way or accept the public's dismissal. An endeavor that makes not the slightest effort to justify itself to nonelite people on their own terms has no reason to complain when nonelite people are dismissive of it.

Art-crit speak is the professional argot of a privileged discursive community, but is not necessary to speak compellingly on avant garde art, just as the lingo of composition can be helpful but is not necessary to speak about avant garde music in a compelling way. This is especially true once you realize that there are no pure formal markers for avant garde art.

Remember that I was talking specifically about bad avantgarde art and ways of talking about its badness. It's easy, even for nonelite people, to talk about really excellent avantgarde art, since the virtues of that kind of work are often immediately apparent. But when it comes to avantgarde art like Snow's, you need the lingo, because if you don't have it, all you've got is "I don't get it, this dude cums on a newspaper. I could do that."

And I think you don't know what you're talking about. The only defining feature of avant garde art is formal novelty and experimentation. While there's a language and a history there, no special training is required to look at a piece of work, put it into an experiential context, and render an aesthetic judgment, especially now that people's lives are more mediated than ever. If a person can talk compellingly about what they had for lunch, they can talk compellingly about avant garde art.

True, in theory. But what if that aesthetic-judgment-in-an-experiential-context is precisely "I don't see why this is art" or "my four year old could do that" or whatever? You can't talk up the accessibility of avantgarde art without confronting the fact that many people render those kinds of judgments about it. There are lots of examples of bad avantgarde art that I can think of no other reaction to.

Your complaint that the avant only functions in established tropes

That's not what I said. What I meant--and I could certainly have been clearer about this--is that art does not function as an independent source of political ideas and causal power. (Guernica fit neatly into the emerging pacifist/humanitarian narrative about the bombing of civilian populations; realism fit into nineteenth-century Radicalism). In other words, you can make a great propaganda poster with it, but you can't write Das Kapital. And you will of course say that political art doesn't want to do that anymore. OK. But in that case, I, personally, don't see the point, since the vast majority of it is made by leftists for leftists and amounts to an inbred parody of praxis.

So for avant garde art to function politically or artistically, it has to internally define the terms of success or failure and be formally novel.

Current avant garde art has modest goals both politically and formally, and because of that, it's not hard to see art that achieves those goals. But by insisting on the modernest conception of a single program, a single way to measure success, and then decrying avant garde art for failing to meet that high standard, is bizarre and anachronistic.


I never insisted on a single anything--I have no idea where you're getting that.

I do find a lot of avantgarde art compelling on a formal and intellectual level. To that extent I think it achieves its goals. Politics is a completely different question.

Further, the days when purely alienating forms were novel are over. As I just showed, it's not hard to talk about work in a way that's not steeped in hermeticism, and while I wouldn't call Snow's work avant garde particularly, plenty of people here have written about it without any real barriers to entry, some compellingly and some not.

Look, my whole argument here is about the alleged "culture of refusal" surrounding avantgarde art. To the extent the culture of refusal exists, it is explainable by the things I've outlined. If it is indeed easier today to engage with avantgarde art, the only proof of that is in how such art is actually engaged with. I personally don't think the strides that have been made are nearly as significant as you claim--the work I see in New York galleries is generally either politically strident and obvious or hermetic.
posted by nasreddin at 9:36 AM on July 16, 2009


My best friend used to have a job where she had to go to Manhattan at least once a quarter to meet with the agency that did her companies ads. As they were a massive account, ad execs were forever getting her tickets to the hottest shows, galleries, restaurants, etc. I would periodically go up with her, because...hey, free Broadway!

Anyway, we were in Manhattan, and a broker friend of mine recommended a gallery that had some of Snow's Polaroids, which truth be told, I thought were pretty cool. The whole "capture the life you're probably going to forget because of your life" thing...that resonates, I get it. But they also had some of his later work, which I personally found to be derivative and pedestrian.

The price to buy his work was unbelievably high. Bubble-price high.

I tend to think that artists like that are pumped in the same way that CDOs were pumped by Goldman. I think there is collusion to make it seem like this art is *so* important, and groundbreaking, and collectors who listen to to people like Charles Saatchi snatch it up in the belief that the value will increase. They don't buy this art because they want to look at it every day, or because it adds some value to their reality, but because it's an investment.

And because it's an investment that is worth a lot, A LOT more once he's stopped making it, his self-destructive lifestyle is applauded and encouraged by people who really don't give a rat's ass about anything but the profit line. (Or perhaps I'm just terribly cynical about the NY art scene...I dunno.) I think he was worth more dead than alive to the collectors, and instead of anyone reaching out to him to try and get him off the Horse, they applauded his antics and begged for more Outré Tricks.

The art scene will eat you alive, if they think there's money in it.

All that said; my sympathies to his friends and family.

.
posted by dejah420 at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2009


I don't disagree with you about that. But you seem to be framing the issue as a matter of reconciliation--if only the art world could be less elitist and the nonelites less dismissive, we could all get along. I don't think that's the best way of looking at it, since it assumes that the current social configuration of the art world--and the current social position of avantgarde art--is some kind of eternal verity that has to be adjusted to.

(Just woke up - not sure if anyone is still reading this thread but...) I think we have to go back to the original impetus for my post to respond to your comment. I was saying very specifically that the repetitive dismissal of avant-garde art is not helpful - and that it goes hand in hand with the legacy of the avant-garde's, partly self-imposed, exile from any broad popular sphere. To expand, this dismissal is not only not helpful because it doesn't come to terms with whatever slivers of potential cultural or political importance such works of movements might have. It is also unhelpful because it does nothing at all to criticize the actual (political, social, aesthetic) problems with the artworld or any given avant-garde - most often such dismissal reinvokes the most conservative notions of what art is or is capable of. Thus, not only dismissing the object under consideration but the entire history of attempts to bring art beyond 19th century romantic notions and notions of craft. As a result such a dismissal also positively asserts an utterly constrained role for art, art that needs to stay in its place and do what it is supposed to do. In fact, since you brought it up, consider one of the most important moments in which precisely these kinds of attributes (these KINDS i'm glossing here to a degree) were invoked in the name of producing a nonelite, populist art - in the late 20's and 30's in Stalinist Russia with the gradual destruction of the Russian avant-garde and the birth of socialist realism.

I asserted that both the elitism of the contemporary artworld and the dismissal of the history of 20th century avant-garde art by non-members of that world were positions that were not necessary and were open to change. That does not mean that I am advocating a specific position of reconciliation. Far from it, I would imagine that any further gestures towards a politically viable art practice would have to take an antagonistic (not simply critical) stance in relation to the artworld such as it is today. I would imagine that any hope of developing a popular, radical art practice would have to understand both the examples of 20th century avant-gardes and the artworld now as contingent historical phenomenon that cannot be taken for granted in formulating a future project. The current relationship of elitism and dismissal is one of many things that would need to be fought against in any such future, popular, radical art practice. But so, of course, is the entire social role defined for the artist who wants to practice within the elite, international artworld. Finally, and this might not have been sufficiently clear in my previous comments, the entire notion of 'avant-garde art' whatever that may be, must itself remain open to question. I am not convinced that any political art premised upon any model of the 'avant-garde' can be fruitful today. But to say it is open to question is not the same as saying it is open to dismissal - it was the model of political art for the latter half of the 19th century through much of the 20th century - and as such it must be worked through and considered seriously, even if it is to be replaced.
posted by huffa at 9:48 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh yeah, and to bring it back to Snow finally, considering his work is another great example of why repetitive avant-garde dismissal is not helpful. there is so much to say and critique about the artworld through the example of his work - that is missed by dismissing it. his work, and more importantly the phenomenon of his career, is a very interesting example of both the economics and the politics of the gilded age elite in 21st century New York. dismissing it with rote terms, misses all this opportunity for a forceful critique of the artworld and, more importantly, the 21st century ultra-elite of the first world.
posted by huffa at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2009


huffa, I was arguing against a position that wasn't yours, as it turns out. I'm pretty much completely in agreement with you.
posted by nasreddin at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2009


Here is a very thoughtful post by Jorg Colberg of Conscientious.

"...just because a Rush Limbaugh could easily ask "What do his tired, shitty Polaroids of naked, drunk, partying friends say about anything?" doesn't mean that it is a question that cannot or should not be asked by people who love contemporary art. The very important thing to note is that while someone like Rush Limbaugh is not in the least interested in whatever the answer might be, my friend who asked me that question in fact very much is - as am I. My friend or I might still think of those Polaroids as shitty, but it's very likely that we will be able to appreciate them for whatever they are and whatever they might mean. And that is part of the process of art, too."
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


nasreddin, cool, i think it was good to hash those things out, so all to the good.
posted by huffa at 10:29 AM on July 16, 2009


"I disagree. I think all human endeavors either need to justify themselves to the broader public in some way or accept the public's dismissal. An endeavor that makes not the slightest effort to justify itself to nonelite people on their own terms has no reason to complain when nonelite people are dismissive of it."

I don't think good faith effort precludes public dismissal. And I've yet to see a work that has absolutely nothing for non-elites. Even though, say, Snow's work is defended from the parapet of elite NY privilege, no one can deny that the subject matter is incredibly common.

"Remember that I was talking specifically about bad avantgarde art and ways of talking about its badness. It's easy, even for nonelite people, to talk about really excellent avantgarde art, since the virtues of that kind of work are often immediately apparent. But when it comes to avantgarde art like Snow's, you need the lingo, because if you don't have it, all you've got is "I don't get it, this dude cums on a newspaper. I could do that.""

Except that's not all you have—that's a bad faith dismissal. I mean, it doesn't take an elite to answer your quote with, "Well, why do you think he did and you didn't?" More to the point, an easy, non-elite dismissal could be, "This shit is boring. Once you get the joke, there's nothing to look at." You seem to be arguing that because there's bad non-elite criticism, all non-elite criticism is necessarily bad or uncompelling, and that's simply not the case.

"True, in theory. But what if that aesthetic-judgment-in-an-experiential-context is precisely "I don't see why this is art" or "my four year old could do that" or whatever? You can't talk up the accessibility of avantgarde art without confronting the fact that many people render those kinds of judgments about it. There are lots of examples of bad avantgarde art that I can think of no other reaction to."

That's a failure of your imagination. That there are inarticulate or dumb reasons for folks who aren't elites not liking art (which Huffa does a good job in connecting to conservative views on art) doesn't mean that there aren't valid reasons for dismissing work, or that "Bullshit" isn't sometimes a valid critique.

"In other words, you can make a great propaganda poster with it, but you can't write Das Kapital. And you will of course say that political art doesn't want to do that anymore. OK. But in that case, I, personally, don't see the point, since the vast majority of it is made by leftists for leftists and amounts to an inbred parody of praxis."

Dude, how media-bound and how ahistorical—Das Kapital didn't spring unbidden from the brow of Marx and Engels. I mean, I have to assume that I'm misreading you, because there seem to be about a million different atoms of derangement in your argument, from the idea that political philosophy is somehow less bound to the vagaries of elites, to the idea that current political philosophers would like to write Das Kapital, to the idea that different media can and should have the same modes and effects, to your narrow reading of the political in art. That's beyond simple objections like arguing that Guernica exists as part of the emerging humanitarian and pacifist modes while ignoring Das Kapital as an outgrowth of Hegelianism and Utilitarianism. Not only that, but Guernica wasn't particularly avant garde—it was the equivalent of U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday (only arguably more important/better).

"Look, my whole argument here is about the alleged "culture of refusal" surrounding avantgarde art. To the extent the culture of refusal exists, it is explainable by the things I've outlined. If it is indeed easier today to engage with avantgarde art, the only proof of that is in how such art is actually engaged with. I personally don't think the strides that have been made are nearly as significant as you claim--the work I see in New York galleries is generally either politically strident and obvious or hermetic."

I think you need to see more, better art.

Look, one of the biggest stumbling blocks that we're having here is that I think you're being incredibly sloppy with how you define avant garde. You seem to have it conflated with both the idea of High Art or the Art World, as well as a leftist pseudo-Marxist political platform. Secondly, you're positing a weird dichotomy regarding hermeticism in art, where you don't seem able to recognize that art precedes theory. Robert Rauschenberg's work is incredibly hermetic, in that it requires a lot of background knowledge to decipher it. He includes family ephemera that holds meaning only to him and a few others, along with mass political statements and obscure historical figures, often linking the two. To tease out all of the meaning of a Raushenberg from his mid-'60s work is pretty well impossible. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing there that immediately engages, or that doesn't have obvious meaning. His work with JFK iconography would be a good example—everyone in the mid-'60s could be reasonably expected to understand JFK as a symbol of innocence, lost hope, imperial power, etc. so there's obvious meaning as well as hermetic meaning from the juxtaposition of JFK with Raushenberg's personal iconography. And obviously, the hermeticism of Raushenberg's work goes further, regarding its place in the history of painting and technical aspects as well.

In large part, I'd argue that the culture of dismissal comes both from the conservative views of art (which I think you evidence too, in arguing categoricals) but also the necessity of dismissal as a response to saturation of media. Think about how advertisers were quick to adopt ersatz surrealism in the '30s—much as I'm wary of arguments from authenticity, the avant garde has been coopted and sold back to the public for nigh on a century, from pretty much the dawn of true mass multi-media. Think about the necessity of protecting your consciousness from viral ad campaigns, which intentionally coopt experimental forms—anything that seems strange or arty may be coming from an advertiser who doesn't care about your engagement with the art. That's largely a different experience from, say, the vast legions of folks democratizing media through flickr etc, but the same defense mechanisms apply.
posted by klangklangston at 12:49 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's trivially easy to turn a urinal on its side too.
posted by imperium at 5:10 AM on July 20, 2009


In 2008, 54 million Americans suffered with mental illness; 35,000 Americans committed suicide due to untreated depression; and 180,000 people died as a direct result of an untreated addiction. Alcohol and drug abuse only exacerbate the problem unfortunately wealth & privilege do not make you insuperable to depression, addiction or loneliness.
posted by tothemoon at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2009


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