Saturday, April 11, 2009

God Spoiled A Perfect Asshole When He Put Teeth In Yer Mouth by Dash Snow



The layman's standard critique of modern art for many years was to simply state that their 'five year old could make that.' Early into Dash Snow's new book God Spoiled A Perfect Asshole When He Put Teeth In Yer Mouth we are faced with a similar notion when the work Penis Envy asks 'How much talent does it really take to come on the New York Post anyway?' This is written in bold type on a 40 x 73 inch inkjet print that is set in a lightbox and, of course, is covered in semen.

Snow has put lots of his spunk to work in collage, much of which winds up doused in glitter. Newspaper front pages and cut photos get his fluid treatments with an attitude which seems to be demanding his own control over current events. A cut out of Saddam Hussein gets royal treatment placed near someone's cock. This IS partly why I like some of what he does. I see the work as being about the uncaring, indulgent, immature and contemptible nature in Dash Snow towards the world outside of his drug-induced arty hamster nest. He is after all the runaway that turned his back on the Menil family money and can clearly see how his work is being speculated upon by art dealers - perhaps because they think the chances are good that, unless he cleans up, he'll OD on heroin and they'll make a killing. He's their ace in the hole. Their Basquiat of jizz and glitter.

So meanwhile he will turn the pope's face into a twat. He'll present a triptych of photos: cooking a shot of heroin, a toilet full of unflushed drug packets, and a bookshelf with a human skull, a gun and stacks of cash. He'll appropriate a porn photo of a man coming onto a woman's face and reproduce it in monochromatic magenta at 50 x 71 inches (Edition of 3 + 2 APs). He'll make a series of collage sporting crudely applied strips of reflective rainbow tape over the genitals of bound nude women from 1960s bondage mags. He'll take a polaroid of his friend's asshole. And alongside that he will make some great collage that will cause envy - penis or otherwise.

Clever word play through cut and paste newspaper clippings are one tactic and surrealist imagery another. A woman's face turns into a brooch while the whole ensemble, one step removed, signals a fuck you. The contempt towards the viewer is hardly veiled like the book's title screams. Another forms human torsos into an exclamation point topped off with the back of a man's bullet riddled head. The title: Eat your money and die!

One piece called Kennedy Assassinated is a collage that features a Los Angeles Times newspaper from November 23rd that features a photo of Kennedy taken about one minute before the infamous shooting. Snow has added colorful loops and curves of color blossoming out of the back of Kennedy's head that bring to mind the cheerful graphics of a Milton Glaser. This is what is a bit intriguing about Snow, he jumps to use obviously provocative material (cultural icons, religion, porn) and then cleverly seduces with a mixture of expectation and surprise.



Unfortunately his messages, although clever on the surface, seem almost cliche with adolescent angst lashing out at the world. The piece that I find most embarrassingly illustrative of this is Bird's Nest which features a nest of twigs within the center of which sits a few blue pills. The best of Snow's collage feel impulsive and open-ended but as soon as he tries to make things precious, like putting his his large photos in frames or the bell jar that houses this nest piece, it all starts to feel forced. The amateur proudness that keeps it all together (with sperm) fades.

Art can often seem masturbatory and after sitting with this for a few weeks it has become mostly tedious. I return to the same few brilliant collage pieces that resonate but as handsome as this book can seem, at $140 dollars I think most people will feel like they've just been fucked. And what is worse, they weren't even given a courtesy reach around. Leave that to the book dealers who'll be constant fluffers at the ready with this book in hand and dollar signs in their eyes.

God Spoiled A Perfect Asshole was published on the occasion of his show at Peres Projects in Los Angeles and the show itself, by way of installation photos, is also the center of attention. Production stills from his film Penis Envy, a super 8 film of men tossing seed onto the New York Post, open and close the book.

22 comments:

John Autry said...

I rolled my eyes so hard that my head hurts now.

dR said...

"most people will feel like they've just been fucked. And what is worse, they weren't even given a courtesy reach around..."

Nice Jeff... I like.

Vincent Borrelli said...

Well written Jeff!
But why bother giving the work so much air time? Why not use your writing talents to promote work that is at least good (this is a sensational snore). I'm sure someone out there is making some serious scratch.

Vincent Borrelli said...

...some of the SX-70 work, on the other hand, is really good...

Jeff Ladd said...

I featured it because it is worth the mention. I do like a lot of his collage. The sx-70s are also good. There is a huge grid of them in this book but it is impossible to see any of them.

Christian said...

I seem to recall that John Gossage mentioned this as one of his favorite books of the year over at Photo-Eye. I was surprised by Gossage's choice, but I do agree with him.

I too am quickly bored with some of Dash Snow's subjects and choice of words. And I don't care for some of his photography -- especially the Polaroids. The Polaroid itself, as a medium, very easily comes off as "precious." Whatever...

Snow's collages are just outstanding, and I think he's fairly masterful at combining the different mediums he's working. There's much to be admired in the work, and the presentation.

It's easy to selectively represent or misrepresent a book according to which images from the book are shown. To be sure, this book is filled with come, cocks, pussies and other "shocking" content (it's not shocking). But what about the metallic c-prints of trees, the colorful flowers isolated on a big black canvas, the fun use of different papers and inserted pieces...

Many of the books that are reviewed on 5B4 are refreshingly different, and I think the same (and more) could be said about this book. I've enjoyed and learned more from this book than most of the other photo books I've seen over the past year.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

Quite ironic that your calling book dealers fluffers. If a book dealer/publisher is in need of a fluffer they come to you and your blog. Your the fucking fluffer. Your the one that gives collectors a hard-on for the books they sell. Love that word by the way. Try to incorporate merkin next time. Oldy but goody.

Vincent Borrelli said...

I retract my comment about the collage work. I've only seen it online and don't have the book, so prematurely snorted out an opinion based on only some of the pictures I've seen. Maybe some are good.

Anonymous said...

...Am I the only one who dismisses 99.9% of an opinion by an anonymous internet commentator when "your" is where "you're" should have been?

Perhaps then the comment at 11:06 is three times as meaningless?

Fluffy said...

Anonymous at 11:06. You're absolutely right.

Now send me your book and I'll make you lots of $$$.

Joshua said...

Book dealers are just people trying to make a living. No small feat these days.

Stuart Alexander said...

To Anonymous at 1:23 AM,

I do not entirely dismiss comments that are full of typos or incorrect grammar. But if a comment is signed 'Anonymous' I will not value it as much as a comment made by someone who will stand behind it.

QT Luong said...

I like the fact that you review books against which you have reservations. Your reviews are informative enough to allow a reader to make his own mind. In this case, I am glad I did not buy the book (I am not particularly into collages) despite marking it for investigation since I noticed it on Gossage's photoeye list. Keep up the good job !

Doktor said...

As others have mentioned his collages are great and It'll be interesting to see in what directions he moves with them. Also his sculptures.

I dont think the money critique is valied though. So what if it costs 140$. Theres a lot of questionable art around which is sold at much higher prizes including books mentioned here. Its possible to critizes everything with the money argument.

I'm also not too shocked by the artists sperm thing. Just a bad attention seeking joke he took from reading Warhol. It's even more of a joke that dealers and buyers go for it but so what.

What I do think is questionable though if our time really needs his ironic and cynic reflection on decadence.

rr said...

Jeff
Great review. It was a good thing that you decided to write about such an extremely loved/hated artist. With Dash work in general there is some common ground with what Leigh Ledare did on Pretend You're Actually Alive. But to me this stuff is juts a pile of junk, even if junk - as always - saves a lot of bums.

jamesshashin said...

I wish his parents would close his trust fund. Then and only then when he truly is in the gutter he will have my respect. He is the phoniest of NY Hipster Phonies. Barf. Yawn Barf. Excuse me, now I need to have a wank on to a photo of Dash Snow having a wank onto a photo of himself and infinitum.

Anonymous said...

Expletives and porn presented as art usually indicate a vacuum of talent. Snow is no exception.

dR said...

Actually... it may be the other way around.

The talent appears to be there...

It's the expletives, porn and hype that may be working to "negate" it.

awkward moment said...

I have long since stopped caring about Dash Snow or his latest; these days I just want artists that I can't smell or hear. This whole fluffing thing, though, I find a bit more alluring. (Personally I've met Jeff Ladd and I don't believe he could fluff his way out of a bag of basmati rice.) But to be fluffed: Will it ever again be like being plugged into an amp that goes to....11?

b said...

I'm still trying to fully come to terms with my appreciation for this work. And this helps. His polaroids are great, his large format prints should probably be small. And his collages are sometimes amazing.

While I sometimes agree with Jeffs comments, especially the idea about 'amateur proudness.' I also think dR ^ see above ^ is on to something. There is talent there. Is the spunk and porn helping or hurting? It's a fine line in this case. In a few instances some of the work fails. But there are quite a number of gems here too.

And why give it air time Vincent? This work is a refreshing change from the glut of boring thematic photobooks we've been enduring the past year relying too heavily on a concept that is too thin.

And have you seen the previous book filled with collages? Many of them are beautiful, clever, very dadaesque. That book is a definite keeper. Although not as impressive as that one this book is a keeper too, especially if you can snag it at under $140.

Anonymous said...

"snag it at under $140", yeah sure, and feed stray dogs caviar on the way home. Dadaesque.

Christian said...

Of course the work is of primary importance, but no one is commenting about the way this book is put together; perhaps because many of the commenters haven't seen the book...?

I enjoy the work, but I also enjoy the way this book is put together, purely from the standpoint of its materials and presentation.

The book begins and ends with lighter newsprint paper, printed in black & white. The middle or core of the book consists of glossy (but not too glossy) full-color reproductions. And there are several inserts along the way, attached or inserted into the book in different ways.

Again, the work is of primary importance, and is one of the driving factors behind the price of the book. But I believe the print run of the book is also somewhat limited, and the different materials and inserts further justify the price point.