The startling career of one of 'Warhol's children'
Dash Snow's ascent through New York's art scene was swift. A teenage graffiti artist in the early 1990s, a decade later his work was the subject of solo shows at galleries in Manhattan and Berlin. A profile of Snow in New York Magazine heralded him and fellow artists Dan Colen and Ryan McGinley as 'Warhol's Children'. As a graffiti artist, photographer, collage maker and sculptor, Snow's work was chaotic and confronting, often featuring graphic depictions of drug use, sex and violence. But Snow's career was fleeting: in 2009 he died of a heroin overdose.
Directed by Cheryl Dunn, the documentary Moments Like This Never Last weaves archival footage of Dash with interviews featuring friends, family and patrons. The picture presented is an intriguing one. Despite emerging from the streets of pre-gentrified Manhattan (cue 1980s-era footage of seedy New York Streets), Snow enjoyed a privileged upbringing; his great-grandparents were noted art collectors and his grandmother gave celebrity-studded parties. But money didn't necessarily equal parental attention and when Snow showed early signs of delinquency he was sent to reform school in Georgia.
That didn't work. Snow escaped and returned to New York. But having disavowed his family, he was homeless, often sleeping on the subway. Eventually, he fell in with fellow graffiti artists and other artistically minded kids. Snow and his friends inhabited a downtown squat, where they took their excessive lifestyle to the next level. Snow chronicled this lifestyle in the form of thousands and thousands of polaroids, which would eventually attract the interest of dealers, setting Snow on course to become a darling of the 2000s downtown art scene.
Even with success, there was no slowing Snow down. There was the infamous incident when he tagged the Brooklyn Bridge. There were his famous 'nests', where his friends shredded telephone books until a room was piled in paper to resemble a hamster's nest. There were endless parties, endless drug use. All of it even after Snow's second wife Jade Berreau gave birth to a baby girl, making Snow's overdose death two years later even more tragic.
Moments Like This Never Last presents a compelling narrative, albeit one that's sympathetic and largely unquestioning of Dash's behaviour and artistic practice. The film does show well what happens when an artist achieves amazing success, success others could only gaze in wonderment at. Snow, in his interviews, remains largely baffled as well. Gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch seeks to explain it by noting that collectors are largely conservative people and by buying a Snow piece are somehow vicariously sampling his wild lifestyle. Whether that's true or not is debatable. What's not is Snow's originality and impact on the art world.