Dash Snow Retrospective at CFA Review

Text by Daniel Penny and pictures by CFA gallery

Dash Snow’s work focuses on the lurid. Whether pulpy headline collage, wild night-life photography, or grainy super 8 film—it’s all pretty smutty. And while the short film, Familae Erase, and collection of 147 tiled Polaroids on view at the CFA offer little in and of themselves, they do present an interesting question in the wake of Snow’s death--what to make of the current Polaroid vogue in a post-Snow world.

Now, I’m not going to credit Snow with single-handedly making Polaroid hip again, but his work certainly didn’t hurt, and for the most part, it predated the current wave of Gorilla vs. Bear Polaroid mania that has followed in his wobbly footsteps. His photos have an undeniable air of raw spontaneity and nostalgia, a kind of constructed authenticity so many contemporary photographers are looking for today. Just watch a Levi’s commercial.
According to this line of thinking, digital photography=fake, and nothing is less digital than a Polaroid. Therefore, so the syllogism goes, Dash Snow=REAL. And to a certain extent, this statement is true: those really are Dash’s friends’ boobs, that is his actual semen, and that really is a needle full of heroin stuck into his forearm: all of these photos muddy and faded, worn on the edges like their subjects. However, none of this “reality” makes the photos of Dash Snow really all that valuable. They’re not. They’re decadent, vapid, and vaguely exploitative (especially the photos of people passed out), unartful Ryan Mcginley knockoffs lacking in aesthetic or conceptual value.
Imagine if Edie have taken all of the photos at the factory.
That said, Snow's work has been influential, spawning hordes of copy-cats and injecting the art world with yet another eight-ball of brash, youthful stupidity--so they’re worth a look--especially if you like art that borders on washed out pornography and tastes like stale malt liquor and backwash.

As a quick note, a screen showing Snow’s 2008 film, Familae Erase, is hidden behind a big black curtain and you have to ask a person working at the desk to start it for you. SPOILER ALERT: it mostly features Snow squirting blood onto photos from a syringe and then sprinkling them with glitter.

CFA is located at Am Kupfergraben 10 in Mitte and is open from 11-6, Tuesday through Friday, and from 11-4 on Saturdays. The Snow show will be up until March 24th.

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