Dash Snow does not exist. He's pure self projection, a kind of latter day myth with his chief achievement being a thought, or rather, the gesture. The thought/gesture is that he is bonafide artworld aristocracy splattering his blue chip De Menil DNA onto yellowed tabloid sheets. Ryan McGinley, who ignited his career when he sent 100 magazine editors and artists copies of his self-published book of photograpy “The Kids Are Alright” is a figment of our collective cultural imagination. Terence Koh's artificial universe got its start from the big bang of asianpunkboy.com . Asianpunkboy is the best title for a band that we wished we had formed. Nate Lowman's big statement at Art Basel Miami 2006 was a tombstone with a legend that read “Here Lies Nate Lowman, Victim Of Identity Theft”.Nate is also a hot curator, already convening shows at Gagosian. Who stole Lowman's identity, or for that matter his career? Gardar Eide Einnarson too, slums in the milieu of skaters and teenaged gangs, underground rock stars and street artists. Maybe he's the one who jacked Nate. Cory Archangel? He has done the inevitable which is to take that ultimate teen zone: the blank screen, the plasma screen, the video screen and colonize it the name of contemporary conceptual art. Then there is Banks Violette, my favorite, taking death, heavy metal, murder, teenaged despair and suicide and making it so monochromatic, ready made and glossy that I wish I could buy it in a boutique. Dan Colen too wallows and spews in that moist adolescent milieu. Johnny Knoxville is probably beating his head against a wall right now, having missed the chance to hang a tallis, a Jewish prayer shawl, from his erect penis as Colen did to publicise his work in the 2006 Biennal.
As a writer I sometimes lose control of my own tone and seem more censorious than I mean to be. I don't hate these artists. There is a thought that every generation gets the art it deserves And when I say mediagenic and very “Jackass”, juvenile and calculating, willfully shallow, self-absorbed and crass I say each and every word in the spirit of the most cynical compliment I can muster. Viva this hedge fund art! Because the output of these artists is.a perfect sell to that recently flush, instant billionaire looking to buy himself some transgression. He probably wishes he looked like this, skinny and pale and tattooed. Or perhaps this is what he looked like back in his rebellious youth, before Wharton and the Greenwich Mc Mansion. Dash and Co generate the perfect art for the age of Paris Hilton, reality TV, camera phone celebrity scandal,teenaged text message morse code, free amatuer internet porn (its called Myspace) and Joseph Beuys multiples for sale on Ebay. In New York at least, when it comes to claiming the artistic identity of the Zeroes (or the Noughts as my proper English friends say), it is this body of artists, intertwined but disconnected from each other that has leapt up to claim the media moment. All my new art friends are going to ring me up when they read that statement to correct me, a too recent refugee from the world of hard fashion. They're going to say “Well actually...those guys are really not that critically respected. The product of Team Gallery and Peres Project? Those guys are kinda seen as flash in the pan. You're obviously getting your information from W and New York Magazine and Vogue Hommes but as an outsider you can't really say they own the moment” But I can and if the art world disapproves its a disapproval within a tradition. When Warhol went “media” in the 60's the common wisdom was that the Pop of Rauchenberg and Lichestein were far more acute and relevant than Warhol's nursey rhyme take on Duchamp. But a big part of Warhol's triumph was to take the internal conceits of the then contemporary art world and to render them in a venacular form that everyday people could process. If its one thing fashion illustration teaches you is the instant communication of your point. A comic strip is one thing but a soup can? Bananas! Certainly without Warhol I wouldn't have been drawn to MOMA as a teenager, where I then learnt to widen my taste precisely because of the other things that lay littered about in close juxtaposition to the easy Warhols. Without Damien Hirst and his big ponderous rotting shark I would not have known what in the world a YBA was, or a Saatchi and Saatchi or a Chris Ofili “Virgin Mary”. A mediagenic artist is a useful bridge in the scheme of things.
The 90's art opening I remember were a blur of nights stuck with politically agitated young artists slurping cheap red wine while murmering “gender index” “intervention” ”patriachial tyranny” “post colonial” and “decentralize”. It was very bewildering, those nights, as I wondered around looking for some dirty pictures. That is dirty pictures in the sense of some kind of visual stimulation that provoked a felt and visceral response. I got what I was looking for, now and again from the likes of Andres Serrano. But look at what a “Piss Christ” did for him?
This is not to say sensationalistic art is good or necessary. Certainly I don't find Dash Snow good or necessary. Or for that matter Dan Colen, Nate Lowman or Ryan McGinley. Terence Koh is all ambition and thrust in my mind, a hollow glitter ball of an artist taking all the above mentioned 90's buzzwords and putting them in a gold lame kimino. His most impressive achievement in my mind is luring Yoko Ono to his post-opening dinner at Mr Chows (“I'm so jealous” I can can hear Andy's ghost hiss) Will these guys stand the test of time? In the words of their sensibility “Now is forever man and every night is New Year's Eve.”
I do get a felt and visceral response to Arcangel, Einarsson and Violette despite myself and I'm not going to fight that. They're my cup of tea. An art that is minimal but obsessive, with an idiot savant's useless rigor. Violette especially leaves a cold and metallic taste in my mouth and I love it .I'm very happy to have made his acquaintance. The real problem is, the decentralized,insular and hermetic world of New York art has turned it self into the very vacum that nature abhors. And who has come screaming out of the vacum to snatch all the attention? Our punk art stars!
I had a conversation with a very good friend, which was essentially a variation on the concerns and themes stated here. I expressed to my friend who makes art, how horrific I thought it was that young artists were now being required to prattle on in this stilted, academic jargon to justify their work in order to get the grants and the studio visits and the slots in group shows that determined their career velocity. “Its tyranny. Its Kafka. If I were an artist, I would refuse to be lingual. I would refuse to peddle words. ” I said. “Yes, he said sadly, “But without that MFA program you're really at a disadvantage. People want some kind of evidence these days” I wonder what Duchamp would do with a MFA. How I would have loved to have read Picasso's thesis on cubism. Its futile to dream that you could time machine these figureheads and put them in this bewildering new modern art world where not only do you have to walk the walk but talk about it night and day too! It must have been nice to write a hysterical manifesto or two in 1927 and leave it that.
But lets go back to “Warhol's Children” as New York magazine dubbed Dash and his dasterdly denizens, or the “Neo-Factory” as the writer Carol Vogel declares McGinley/Koh/Colen/Einarsson/Violette to be in the new Vogues Hommes via that lush 14 page edit lensed by Hedi Slimane and styled by Emmanuel Alt . “They are the tattooed flesh and blood proof that New York is still in the running when it comes to turning out original artists” asserts Vogel. If they are Warhol's kids then Andy has had nothing but brattish boys suffering through a prolonged adolescence. I will be assured in the next few days that there are better artists, more respected artists, far more original and complex artists living and working out there. Well their trees are falling in dead forests while these wild eyed young things preen for Hedi. Maybe all is not lost. So as not to despair I'm off to read the Marilyn Minter Q+A at style.com. Her life experience and wisdom is stunning.