photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
its easy to write off a figure like turn-of-the-millennium UNDERGROUND collage artist / photographer DASH SNOW as being the recipient of undue acclaim and attention due to the presupposed PRIVILEGE of being a scion of the DE MENIL family and its massive art collection, as well as noted BUDDHIST author and academic ROBERT THURMAN. but that would be incorrect and such is the working thesis of the recent MOMENTS LIKE THIS NEVER LAST (VICE, 2021) documentary about his meteoric rise as a CELEBRATED artist and his tragically brief life at the hand of heroin.
SNOW was a talented artist who served as a catalyst for the downtown NYC art scene that included peers like RYAN MCGINLEY, DAN COLEN, TERENCE COH and ex-wife AGATHA SNOW among others. as a teen he effectively left his family (with whom he was apparently written out of their will) after returning to the city after a brief stint in a juvenile correctional facility in rural GEORGIA meant to cure him of his OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER diagnosis. the trauma of such seemingly only reinforced his OPPOSITIONAL worldview towards authority and strengthened his loyalty to friends and allies he found on the street, eventually coalescing with his IRAK clique of fellow hustlers and street artists. this pre-9/11 downtown scene during the height of GIULIANI's reign was the incubator for his PERSONA and ART. the dude tagged everywhere, including a legendary "FUCK GIULIANI" on the side of the BROOKLYN BRIDGE. this aspect of his personality i found more than a little JUVENILE and OUTLANDISH, since it reeked of attention-grabbing antics from a TROUBLED young man.
what i found IMPRESSIVE was how SNOW was able to hone his craft, be quite PRODUCTIVE and support his friends throughout his brief life and career. his work was biographical and completely UNINHIBITED, he essentially lived like someone in a community with no boundaries or limitations. outsiders may see this as bohemian nonsense, and at times watching some of these antics in retrospect does feel a bit forced, but there is no doubt when looking at his collages and photographs the studied intention and eye for detail. he was truly GIFTED. its more than a bit HUMOROUS and IRONIC as the film points out, that a kid who ran away and gave up a family of art royalty, in turn became one himself. like many TALENTED artist and musicians before and since, opiates robbed him of his creativity, sucked out his ENERGY to live and snuffed him out too soon. its an old story that is beyond cliche at this point but its one that will continue unabated going forward no doubt.
the fact that he passed away so young with an infant daughter to boot is just tragic. i condone the right of people making personal decisions regarding LIFESTYLE and HEALTH, but when said choices lead to a young child being robbed of the opportunity to grow up with a father, it just feels like a SELFISH moral failing. i could be wrong on that but its my reaction nonetheless with regards to SNOW as well as BRAD NOWELL, IAN CURTIS, SHANNON HOON or KURT COBAIN before him. again, cant help watching this celebration of his life without feeling BITTERSWEET about his legacy. he catalyzed an art movement but at the price of his family.
was it really worth it?
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
SHEPARD FAIREY is a celebrated RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN-trained GRAFFITI ARTIST / GRAPHIC DESIGNER best known for his "OBEY GIANT" urban guerrilla sticker/poster/stencil campaign and the ubiquitous "HOPE" icon he created in support of BARACK OBAMA's successful presidential campaign back in 2008. inspired by the likes ROBBIE CONAL, BARBARA KRUGER, MARCEL DUCHAMP, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and ANDY WARHOL, FAIREY ventured out with his EXPERIMENTAL CAMPAIGNS that often played with REPETITIVE MESSAGING and the general public's capacity to be influenced and manipulated by such.
the recent documentary OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY (HULU, 2017) is very much concerned with fleshing out and introducing the career of FAIREY to a general public that is seemingly unfamiliar with STREET ART and its misunderstood code of ethics, which are often the target of overzealous police departments. what comes across is the intent of his work, which is often POLITICALLY, CULTURALLY and SOCIALLY ACTIVIST in nature, and the inherent risk of utilizing forgotten derelict and abandoned building facades as his canvas. there is a transition of sorts from the "ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A POSSE" SOCIAL EXPERIMENTALISM phase to his reactionary BUSH-era visual screeds against the war in IRAQ to his more recent, constructive post-OBAMA that advocates on behalf of a whole host of causes he believes in and provides free visual graphic work for (including CLIMATE CHANGE, MARRIAGE EQUALITY, PRISON REFORM, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS, etc.). in essence FAIREY is a master of PROPAGANDA, but he uses his powers for good in that he creates omnipresent visuals that promote and support an immediately identifiable VALUE SYSTEM that promotes CORE HUMANISTIC BELIEFS in INCLUSIVITY, DIGNITY, INQUIRY and DIVERSITY.
i personally was unaware of FAIREY's legal challenges regarding the ASSOCIATED PRESS photograph he transformed into the famous "HOPE" icon. the fact that there were two images and he misremembered which one he utilized and thus made a string of bad choices to cover up that mistake. the documentary itself may be a mea culpa on his part as such apparently affected his CREDIBILITY and fundamentally questioned his HONESTY. in my mind the whole charade feels like corporate overreach. seems the ASSOCIATE PRESS was attempting to extract money and the ability to reach back and futilely attempt to control the ability of artists to transform what is essentially their INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. feels equally ludicrous as the BOSTON police department arresting FAIREY on the opening night of his new showing at the prestigious INSTITUTE of CONTEMPORARY ART. what a bunch of schmucks. what i gained from those two misadventures is the cost of doing business as a famous GRAFFITI ARTIST. that is the risk you run playing along the edge of legality. not that im judging in the least.
OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY is an interesting career retrospective for a guy that is still young, only 52 as of 2022. as long as he isnt incarcerated, im very much looking forward to his creative work and international ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS for years to come.