Dash Snow was a famously graceful climber, and he was never afraid of heights. As a young graffiti artist, he climbed onto a ledge to paint the Brooklyn Bridge. He left behind his tag, SACE, and the message “Fuck Giuliani” before taking off his clothes and gazing out over the water. In the artist’s own words, New York City was in his blood.
Snow (1981-2009) was a photographer, sculptor, collage artist, friend, partner, and father. He also defied categorization. As a young boy, he threw watermelons at cars and tossed the heads of his sister’s Barbies out their 17th-story window. He was Ryan McGinley’s friend and muse, and along with Teddy Liouliakis and Dan Colen, a fixture of the clubhouse on 7th Street where people got together to party and make art.
Later, he built “nests”–first in hotel rooms, then in an art gallery–shredding countless phonebooks to produce a human-sized hampster nest where he and friends could play. And, of course, he was a loving parent. When his daughter, Secret, learned how to walk, she did it by holding onto his finger.
The exhibition DASHCAM Dash Snow: Photographs of Life, on view at Morán Morán in Los Angeles, centers an overlooked piece of the artist’s expansive oeuvre: his black-and-white 35mm photographs. Like his Polaroids, these images capture the city of New York and the people Snow loved most, including his partner Jade Berreau, daughter Secret, and close friend Kunle F. Martins, in moments so tender they ache.
The Morán Morán show roughly coincides with the Quad Cinema screening of Moments Like This Never Last, the documentary by the artist’s friend, Cheryl Dunn. “For me, it really felt like an impure gesture to submit this to the world,” Snow says in the film. “Like, this is not for anyone. This is for us, and it’s too pure of a moment.” He’s talking about the Polaroids, but the same could be said for the 35mm black and white pictures. One feels privileged to see them.
Snow died very young, but as Matthew Higgs, the curator of the show at Morán Morán, explains, it would be a mistake to understand his photographs as a kind of memento mori. They’re filled to the brim with “too much living” to lend such a reading any credence. Instead, we can find within them not only love (for his chosen family, his friends, his daughter) but also a kind of abiding innocence and hope–or as Higgs puts it, “a sense of melancholic optimism.”
That seems right. Over the years, Dash Snow has become a myth as well as a man, and perhaps in some small way, he’s also become more than mortal. That night on the Brooklyn Bridge, I’d like to imagine that life seemed limitless, the future appearing before him, as vast as the city itself.
See DASHCAM Dash Snow: Photographs of Life at Morán Morán through October 19th, 2021.