Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Which I complain about Ryan McGinley's eulogy

So Dash Snow died of a heroin overdose about a month ago (obit, NYT article). He was mostly famous for being a very rich (scion on de menil family of the Dia center for the arts) and wild downtown artist/tagger. He was not very productive as a professional artist, but he had a lot of notoriety thanks to his pedigree, vice magazine, and his proximity to photographer Ryan McGinley.

McGinley is quite a famous art photographer with works in the National Gallery and other august institutions. His photographs usually depict thin, beautiful white downtown artists engaging in young adult hijinks--running around in fields, playing in ball pits, being half naked, drinking/smoking. They are beautiful pictures, but the rap on him has always been about whether they are art or not. He is a downtown artist making art about the lifestyle of downtown artists. The pictures can be mistaken for beautiful party shots. It would be like if a famous baseball player made paintings about baseball. people could love looking at them, but a critical establishment might be skeptical about their transcendent artistic merit. I like McGinley's pictures generally. but that isn't what I come to talk about.

McGinley wrote this essay in the most recent vice magazine about the death of Snow. I am deeply disappointed by the piece. It is quite simply the most self-centered, superficial eulogy one can imagine. I have to assume that this was McGinley attempting to seize on the death of a friend to further his own personal mythology about wildness/coolness. There is no emotion in the piece--only a litany of culture signfiers (cocaine, gold tooth caps from canal street, tagging, black people, speeding, europe, police, sex) which happen to be the same signifiers in his art. McGinley even has the gall to lionize heroin as a great and fun drug after it killed his friend. I know all of this makes me a prude, but these are not the things one says when a friend dies. This piece is self-involved, self-aggrandizing, and completely lacking in genuine emotion. If it is McGinley's intention to show that his pictures are more than the beautiful ephemera of a self-involved culture, he has failed. He has show a lack of broad-thinking and universal feeling where he probably attempted to show authenticity.


Laura said...

random aside... Snow was the grandson of famed Buddhist scholar and Wisdom author Robert Thurman, who is also the father of Uma Thurman, which makes me and Uma bffs.

(how's that for taking someone's death as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement?)

Terry said...

I think there's no emotion in the piece because there was never any emotion between them. He says it in the piece. They were just there to get wasted and have fun.