Hard-living, cop-dodging New York collage artist, photographer, and graffiti writer Dash Snow has died of a drug overdose at 27. Gawker broke the news this morning and now the Times has received confirmation from Snow's grandmother, art collector Christophe de Menil, that he passed away last night at downtown hotel Lafayette House. According to De Menil, he'd been in rehab in March and had only recently started using again.
Snow became an emblem of the downtown art scene after being profiled by Ariel Levy in a 2007 New York cover story. In it, a friend of the artist told Levy his wall was lined with alphabetized binders cataloguing Snow's work, "because you never know what's going to happen with Dash." He co-founded Irak, an infamous graffiti crew, and decorated much of his penis-obsessed artwork with his own semen — an interesting career path considering the pedigree of his family, which he claimed to have shunned following a two-year stint in juvenile detention between the ages of 13 to 15. In 2007, Levy wrote:
What makes the legend richer is that Dash Snow could very easily have lived a different kind of life, been a different kind of artist. Snow’s maternal grandmother is a De Menil, which is to say art-world royalty, the closest thing to the Medicis in the United States. His mother made headlines a few years ago for charging what was then the highest rent ever asked on a house in the Hamptons: $750,000 a season. And his brother, Maxwell Snow, is a budding member of New York society who has dated Mary-Kate Olsen.
As Levy notes in the piece, rebelling against one's famous art family by becoming a famous artist may seem strange, but Snow — who was nearly as well known for his purported shoplifting and scuffles with the police — stumbled into it:
Snow refused to call himself an artist for a long time. He used to boast that he’d been Polaroiding his night wanderings since he stole a camera at age 13, just so he’d know where he’d been when he sobered up. More recently Snow has been into collage, but either way some see in his work a kind of radical authenticity that parts of the art world are desperate for. “Whether it’s total bullshit and he’s running around trying to get in trouble with the police, it kind of doesn’t matter,” says art agent and consultant Molly Logan. “As a case study, here’s a creature who’s just reacting. I think that for the last five years or so, there is a larger desire for the personal: something that has the hand of a person in it. It’s not I’m going to do this so people will think I’m crazy. I am crazy! I think he’s genuinely and completely self-destructive.”
Which is, of course, what the art world has always wanted, especially in New York City, what Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning supplied, along with genius. That magic flash of insanity, framed and for sale.
Read the rest of "Chasing Dash Snow" here.