All posts tagged: Patrick McNeil

MIMA Museum: City Lights with Swoon, MOMO, Hayuk, Faile

MIMA Museum: City Lights with Swoon, MOMO, Hayuk, Faile

What is it about Brooklyn Street Art that is so appealing that one would curate the opening exhibition of a museum with it?

Four pillars of the New York Street Art scene are welcoming the first guests of the new Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA), which opened days ago in Brussels. Attacking the cherished institutions that relegate grassroots people’s art movements into the margins, MIMA intends to elevate them all and let them play together. Graphic design, illustration, comic design, tattoo design, graffiti, street art, plastic arts, wheat pasting, sculpture, text, advertising, pop, story-telling, aerosol, brushwork, and naturally, dripping paint.

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MOMO. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

Obviously street culture has been mixing these influences together in a never-ending lust for experimentation; punk with hip-hop, skateboarding with tattoo, performance art with graffiti – for the past four decades at least. The folk tradition of cutting and pasting predates all our  modern shape-shifting by centuries, but institutional/organizational curating often often has a preference for sorting street culture disciplines into separate piles.

With the inaugural exhibition “City Lights” MOMO, Swoon, Faile, and Maya Hayuk each bring what made their street practice unique, but with an added dimension of maturity and development. Without exception each of these artists have benefitted from the Internet and its ability to find audiences who respond strongly to the work with physical location a secondary consideration. Now as world travelers these four have evolved and refined their practice and MIMA gives them room to expand comfortably.

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MOMO. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

Rather than recreating the slap-dash chaos of street clash, and aside from the aforementioned drips and splatters in geometric neon hues by Hayuk, the museum setting is contained and crisply defined. Perhaps because of the cross-disciplines hinted at and welcomed, the overall effect is more contemporary than urban.

Hayuk’s space, with its raised ceilings and stained glass window treatment is a hand-hewn modern chapel, borrowing a holy inflection and spreading it across to the urban art faithful who will make the pilgrimage to this new hallowed space.

On opening day (which was delayed by weeks because of the recent airport and transit bombing here) the crowd who queued on an overcast day down the block along the Canal in Molenbeek was undaunted by the wait and expectant. Housed in a former beer factory, the greater collection includes large installations by the marquee namesin the main spaces and smaller pieces ranging from Stephen Powers and Todd James to Piet Parra and Cleon Patterson in galleries evoking whitebox galleries.

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MOMO. Detail. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

In precisely the ex-industrial part of town that is usually slaughtered with graffiti you can still see a variety of throwies and bubble tags floating above murky waters along the canal walls from the terrace of the 1300 square meter, 4 story MIMA. It’s an oddly storied juxtaposition perhaps, yet somehow perfectly natural and modern.

If the popular imagination of “museum plus Street Art” conjures anything for you, it may present some kind of overture toward the continuation of the street into the formal space and vice-versa. Faile’s two-color stencils and slaughtering of walls inside clearly connect to ones they have done over the last 15 years and that are currently on New York streets. Their huge prayer wheel assembled here was actually shown in the center of Times Square last fall with tens of thousands of tourists climbing it, sitting upon it, posing for selfies with it and spinning it, so the continuum is very much intact in that respect.

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MOMO. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

Similarly Swoon’s wheat-pasted family of figures and her hand-cut paper patterns on mottled walls in the basement recall her work on street walls in Red Hook Brooklyn at this moment – as well as her periodic takeovers/installations inside choice areas of abandoned urban neglect through the years. To complete the dialogue at MIMA her hand-painted linotype  prints are also wheat-pasted outside on Brussels walls near the museum, not slapped but placed with her customary consideration of context and proportion.

Ever the developer of new methodologies for painting, MOMO piled long strips of fabric in an overlapping circular pattern upon layered patches of color and unveiled the new work by gathering the invited artists and museum founders to watch as Faile’s Patrick McNeil slowly pulled the “rope” outward, breaking sealed layers and revealing a heretofore non existent composition. To share and remember the birth process he leaves the tools of revelation in a pile before it. In this way MOMO recalls his street practice of conjuring and developing new tool-making and art-making techniques when bringing work into the public sphere.

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MOMO.  MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © MOMO – MIMA MUSEUM)

Aside from each evolving from the subcultures of the street in some capacity, the nature of the works transcend the partitioning that can define exhibitions, allowing the various practices to become the language of the culture. MIMA appears to have the physical space, as well as the psychological and philosophical space, to contemplate the multiplicity of voices that are flooding the streets and the Internet; forming subcultures and ultimately culture. The City Lights in this case are as much on the various dialogues of the street as the street itself.

MIMA is the creation of four co-founders; Florence and Michel Delaunoit, Alice van den Abeele, and Raphaël Cruyt. The inaugural show is curated by van den Abeele and Cruyt and many of the artists shown in the extended collection here have a history and special meaning to the two through their venture the ALICE Gallery, which has as its strength a focus on art collaborations and exhibition with sculpture and installations.

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SWOON. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

We spoke with Alice van den Abeele about the selection of these four artists for the opening, the intersection of Internet with museum curation, and the changing nature of our perceptions of culture. Here is an excerpt from our conversation

Brooklyn Street Art: In your initial descriptions of the museum a focus is made on the uprooting of culture as it pertains to geography by way of the Internet during the last decade and a half. How do these artists represent this free-travelling cultural reality?
Alice van den Abeele: This cultural reality is easy to feel when you are in the CITY LIGHTS exhibition. The installations by Swoon, Maya Hayuk, FAILE and MOMO immerse you in different artistic worlds but share an extroverted language that is direct and playful. It is a language acquired with the street and with travel – a mixture you may call a “world citizen”.

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SWOON. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

Brooklyn Street Art: The museum addresses a range of subcultures that are directly or tangentially related to the street art scene during the last decades. Why is it important for us to consider these contributors?

Alice van den Abeele: Because of our history. With the communication revolution and the relative low cost of Internet connectivity, the beginning of the millennium brought changes to our perception of the world. A feeling of being a citizen of the world is developing in the West – by which I mean to say there is a cosmopolitan attitude that makes us more empathetic, collaborative, and cross-cultural.

For artists this means there is a greater mobility between creative fields. The artist can easily be a skateboarder, a designer, a musician, a graffiti artist and they can also exhibit in a gallery or a museum. He or she adapts to different creative contexts and their identities are many – not limited to being a ‘street artist” or “a musician”.  The subcultures mix easily together. Lust look at the New York art scene at the time of the Alleged Gallery for example.

On the other hand, society moves it through the prism of the Internet today and selects artists that reflect a new thinking. The values ​​that define the artist’s behavior in the street are close to those that define our behavior on the Internet: Empathy, the right of access rather than ownership, a collaborative spirit, authenticity, and a cross/hybrid culture.

Somehow, the street work embodied physically very early this paradigm shift that was occuring in our society, this new way of perceiving the world. That’s the story the MIMA wants to tell through the exhibitions and the works in the permanent collection. We are living through a revolution that is slowly rewriting the history of art “bottom up” – which may have a thousand faces.

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SWOON. An assistant helps with a large wheat paste. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo ©Alice van den Abeele)

Brooklyn Street Art: Is it important to examine these subcultures separately or is it more relevant to see what their combined influences are producing for the world as aesthetic movements, social movements?
Alice van den Abeele: Cultures are not compartmentalized. They mix to reinvent themselves. Besides, don’t they all become mainstream? In a world of continuous flow of information we should beware of categories and labels – which are often more commercial than artistic. As I said earlier, subcultures today are of great interest to society because they can inspire in us a common ideal – better than our politicians.

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SWOON. Detail. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © The Pickles – MIMA MUSEUM)

Brooklyn Street Art: As a group, these inaugural artists have an association in our minds with early-mid 2000s New York street art culture. Can you talk about the significance in broad terms of your choice of these artists for your initial exhibition?
Alice van den Abeele: Initially, when we visited the MIMA building in ruins, we immediately imagined an intervention by Maya Hayuk in the room called The Chapel. We know Maya really well because we have had the pleasure of working with her for such a long time. With that first intention, we thought that it would be great to have artists who know and appreciate each other, share a common history, and to create a synergy between them!

This combination of talent and affection has produced a unique exhibition, full of spirituality. More generally, the New York scene of this period is particularly rich for us and it was a good matrix to introduce the vision of the MIMA to the public!

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FAILE. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

Brooklyn Street Art: What sort of artists or influences do you envision for near future exhibitions?
Alice van den Abeele: It is certain that we will continue to work with artists in the same vein as those that are present in the permanent collection. At the same time we want to leave the door open to the future for the unknown and to surprise ourselves for the fun of it.

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FAILE. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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FAILE. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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FAILE. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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FAILE. Detail. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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FAILE. Detail. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Pascaline Brishcoux – MIMA Museum)

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Maya Hayuk. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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Maya Hayuk. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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Maya Hayuk. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © The Pickles – MIMA Museum)

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The artists with curators. Work in progress. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

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Maya Hayuk talks with Patrick Miller in the foreground and Patrick McNeil chats with MOMO on the background in Maya’s installation. MIMA Museum. Brussels, Belgium. April 2016. (photo © Alice van den Abeele)

 

The MIMA Museum “City Lights” inaugural exhibition in Brussels, Belgium is currently open to the general public and will run until August 28, 2016. Click HERE to learn more about MIMA.

 

 

 

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What Happened with BSA + FAILE at the Brooklyn Museum?

What Happened with BSA + FAILE at the Brooklyn Museum?

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Steven P. Harrington, Patrick Miller of Faile (top), Sharon Matt Atkins, Patrick McNeil, and Jaime Rojo (image © by and courtesy of The Dusty Rebel) (@DustyRebel on Instagram)

Yes, it was a big deal for us so we want to share it with you. A few years after we introduced Faile to the Brooklyn Museum we have been blown away by the success of their exhibition Savage/Sacred Young Minds all summer long, as well as the long lines of people who have flowed through both of their immersive environments (Temple, and Deluxx Fluxx with Bäst). Under the guidance of curator Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director, Exhibitions and Collections, the museum has again produced a relevant, modern and dynamic show that brings in the street and resonates strongly with the local Brooklyn community and academics as well.

You must have seen (or been a part of) the ocean of people here one night in July when Swizz Beatz and Faile celebrated art and art-making with many of the youth who gave birth to this current Street Art movement in New York. A central tenet of this encyclopedic museum for the last decade and a half has been to produce exhibits and events that involve the community, that are relevant and impactful and the audience at our event in the auditorium attests to the success of exhibitions like Faile’s in this respect.

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Patrick McNeil installing Deluxx Fluxx this spring at the Brooklyn Museum (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Following their work on the street since the late 1990s when Faile began making Street Art, we didn’t actually get to meet them in person until many years later, but we’ve always admired their tenacity and risk-taking and experimentation with their work. The crowning event for us was to interview them on the stage of the museum with the show’s curator Sharon Matt Atkins and to introduce some new people to them live and online; along with a bunch of stalwart longtime fans, collectors, gallerists, art students, and journalists.

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The pre-show began with some collaged video of commercials and TV/movie excerpts inspired by Faile’s personal history as youth growing up in the 1980s. Our presentation momentum hit a few speed bumps at the beginning because of microphone outages and we almost lost the rhythm but eventually we got it back and we had a great time with the guests and the audience members, who were so astute and amazing and articulate in their questions and during the conversations we had later with them at the reception.

Our sincere thanks to Ms. Matt Atkins, Patrick McNeil, Patrick Miller, Director Anne Pasternak and The Brooklyn Museum for hosting us, Alicia Boone the Adult Programs Manager for helping put it all together, previous Director Arnold Lehman for his support, as well as Brooke Baldeschwiler, Shelly Bernstein, Emily Annis, Radiah Harper, Patrice Capobianchi, Matthew Branch, Osaro Hemenez, Robert Nardi, Tim, Emily Liebowitz, Paul Bessire, Meryl Cooper, Fatima Kafele, Lauren Zelaya, Margo Cohen Ristorucci, Sally Williams, and all of the staff and folks at the museum with whom we have been working with over these past few years and Chris Jordan, Doc Gregory, and Ray Cross. It is an honor and a privilege to be a Brooklyn neighbor and a part of The Brooklyn Museum family.

 

Faile’s show closes October 4th! Hurry!

Artnet_logo

Review of BSA at Brooklyn Museum with Faile on artnet news
Street Art Duo FAILE Urges Fans to Make a Statement at the Brooklyn Museum – Amanda Thomas

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Also read our review of the BKM exhibit when it opened:
Holy FAILE! ‘Savage/Sacred Young Minds’ at Brooklyn Museum

See Part II of the interview with Faile on Livestream

 

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BSA LIVE with FAILE at Brooklyn Museum Today – Live Streaming 7pm EST

BSA LIVE with FAILE at Brooklyn Museum Today – Live Streaming 7pm EST

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Join Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, co-founders of BrooklynStreetArt.com In Conversation with Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil of FAILE today at the Brooklyn Museum.

The event will be moderated by Sharon Matt Atkins, who is the organizer of FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds and Vice Director, Exhibitions and Collections at Brooklyn Museum.

This is a great opportunity for you to take on their expansive exhibition before it closes. The museum will stay open until 10:00 pm. In addition to learning more about their art and their history if you are one of the lucky ones you might bring home a FAILE silk screened tote bag home. There will be a makeshift silk screen shop by Bushwick Print Lab with a DJ duo Chances With Wolves playing music and a cash bar.

Click HERE for further information

 

LIVE STREAMING LINK BELOW:

https://livestream.com/BrooklynMuseum/failebsa

 

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9 Year Old Interviews Faile in the Deluxx Fluxx Arcade

9 Year Old Interviews Faile in the Deluxx Fluxx Arcade

Summer interns are younger than ever this year in NYC!

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Thought you would like to see this video that Huffpost made last week as the FAILE show was about to open. Literally it was the day before the opening and behind the scenes people were running around like cats at a rocking chair convention. But you wouldn’t know it by the calm and friendly demeanor of Patrick and Patrick as they show 9 year old interviewer Ada Donnelly how to play the games and make sure she gets the inside story on the Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. The concept is genius! Read the full story HERE:

And here’s a pretty complete run-down of the show we did for the opening of ‘Savage/Sacred Young Minds’

 

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Holy Faile ! “Savage/Sacred Young Minds” at Brooklyn Museum

Holy Faile ! “Savage/Sacred Young Minds” at Brooklyn Museum

FAILE may be a religious experience this summer at the Brooklyn Museum, but only one of the hallowed installations is called Temple. The seedier, more dimly lit venue will surely have the larger number of congregants by far, bless their sacred hearts.

Celebrating the duality and appropriation of words, slogans, and images has been the baliwick of the duo since they first began hitting Brooklyn streets at the turn of the century with their stencils and wheat-pastes on illegal spots and neglected spaces. In FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds, their new attention commanding/refracting exhibit organized by Sharon Matt Atkins at the Brooklyn Museum, these guys pour it on, compelling you into a complex panoply of possible re-imaginings of meaning that reference pop, pulp, myth, art history, 50s sci-fi, 60s advertising, comics, punk zines, consumer culture and their own pure artistic and branded fiction.

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For fans of this collaboration between artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, Savage/Sacred is a joyride swerving through the visual vocabulary and terminology they’ve been emblazoning across walls, doorways, canvasses, stickers, sculptures, prayer wheels, wood blocks, paintings, prints, toys, and a museum façade in their steady ascendance from anonymous art school students and Street Artists to a highly collected top tier name in contemporary art.

Offering you a full immersion and opportunity for titillating interaction, this show provides an unambiguous sense of the industry that is backing the Faile fantasy. Throughout their work and your imagination and assumed role, you may be villain, distressed damsel, wolfman, fairey, vandal, wrestler, hot-rodder, madonna, whore, supplicant, avenger, surfing horse or simply an arcade hero who is whiling away windowless hours punching buttons, popping flippers and pumping Faile tokens into tantalizing art machines.

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FAILE. FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Central to the formative Faile story is an image of the teenage Patricks piecing together clues about the world in these dark dens of possibility and teenage angst, awash in fantasy, aggression, testosterone and communal alienation.

Miller talks about the arcade atmosphere with a certain reverence, “All through Middle School, especially on the weekends, you’d just get dropped off at the mall and be there all day. There is something about the idea of this being a somewhat sacred space as a teenager in arcades. They are sort of a “Candyland” – a magical space mixed with a little seediness. You had kind of a large age range in there. You could get in trouble if you wanted but through the video games you could live out these crazy fantasy experiences. Historically arcades have been like that – very much with the Times Square notion. They’ve always had that connection to an underbelly of things.”

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Do you think New York is still seedy?
Patrick Miller: It seems like it is getting harder to find, in a way.
BSA: So really you might say that this is a public service, this installation.
Patrick Miller: There are so many young people who have never had this experience today. Not only are we trying to share what that was like, it is something that shaped the way we are inspired as artists and the way we make imagery, the way we make icons. The roots of video-game culture are there and now that has sort of bled out today – but also we’re interested in the shared experience because so much of the video game experience is now mobile or is just had on your couch, I think people have forgotten that there used to be these places were you congregated to do this.

For the 5th public offering of FAILE BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade and the first in a museum setting, Faile extends the scope and adds a handful of new NYC-centric scenarios to the mix and again partners with fellow Brooklyn street artist and spin-cycle collage mutator-in-chief BÄST, whose stylistic counterplay alerts undercurrents of tension with a punk-naïve primal hand painting and humoristic Dada collaging.

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Can you describe the working dynamic with Faile and BÄST?
Patrick Miller: We’ve always been really inspired by BÄSTs work because we start from a similar place but we end up totally differently.
BSA: Yeah the end result is very different
Patrick Miller: Ours are probably more structured and narrative.
Patrick McNeil: I think over time we have tried not to step on each others’ toes. He generally controls the half-tone territory and we control the line-drawing territory.
BSA: So his are more photography-based and yours tend more toward the illustration.
Patrick McNeil: Yep
Patrick Miller: I think the work comes from the same place but his is just turned up to “11”.
Patrick McNeil: Yeah his is more put into a blender.
Patrick Miller: But that has always been what makes us work well together, the styles mix and marry really well and they kind of bring the best out of both.
BSA: And he has become even more abstract recently – more lo-fi outsider artish…., although you guys have delved into children’s coloring books for inspiration as well
McNeil: I think BÄST would like to call it more “outsider art”.
BSA: Why has it been important to keep Deluxx Fluxx a Faile-BÄST collaboration over the last five years thoughout its various iterations?
McNeil: We started this project as a collaboration and we’ve been collaborating with BÄST for fifteen years. We’ve always enjoyed working with him because we just love the friendship and we love the product of our collaborations. I think having the opportunity to be at the Brooklyn Museum and to do it together with him is really special.

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Twenty-two in all, the custom designed variations on arcade video and pinball games from the 1970s and 80s alert competitive urges and quests for domination alongside more mundane tasks like alternate side of the street parking and completing atypical digital art-making sessions where “winning” is defined entirely differently.

Social, sexual, comical, criminal, and environmental concerns all pop and parry while you nearly mindlessly and repetitively punch buttons and fire guns at herky-jerky 2-D motion graphics that transport you to the hi-charged arcade experience rumbling in malls and sketchier parts of town before the Internet. Get a taste for those darkened caves where you racked up points while quarters were sucked from your pockets; you are the favored hero at home in this seductive lair, surrounded by an ear pounding audio-musical triumphalist barrage of hypnotic hormonal victory and id-shattering explosions.

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The adjoining cavernous black-light illuminated fluorescent foosball room is papered with mind-popping illustrations derived and sutured from comics, pulp and smarmy back-pages advertising that once stirred secret desires. Walking in on this teen temple you may feel like looking for dirty magazines sandwiched between mattresses; surely a hyped up juvenile would choose these alternating graphic “floor tiles” in radiation yellow, sugar coated pink and neon orange, giving your footsteps a spongey depth perception test on your way to a round of table football.

The floor-to-ceiling hand painted posters took four people six months to complete, both Patricks tell us, and they all compete for your attention, each a narrative re-configured and augmenting secret storylines, myths, and plenty of white lies.

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FAILE’s Patrick Miller demonstrates an art experience where you rip posters off the wall to reveal yet more Faile posters underneath, which you can rip further. FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Somehow it is here in the day-glo madness that we see the closest approximation to the original Street Art experience passersby had in the early 2000s with Faile’s work when they were still a trio that included artist AIKO and in those years just after her departure. These are the bold, familiar graphic punches thrown in a direction you weren’t expecting and can make you laugh.

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FAILE’s Patrick McNeil demonstrates how to tag subway walls before the “Bast Ghosts” come after you. FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In a media- and advertising-saturated society our tools of discernment and reason are compromised, deliberately so. Faile is recognizing some symptoms of this compromise and is examining the stories and the narratives that are told, crafting their own dramatic nomenclature from the pile. You might say that their stories are melding with an idealized simplification of North American white dude history, a heroic paranoid absolutism that lays bare the prejudices behind it.

A simple survey of words illustrates the perspective: prayer, bitch, horse, rainbow, sinful, Jesus, warriors, forbidden, Indian, hero, poison, brave, strong, boy, guilty, pleasure, bedtime, cowboys, hotrods, savage, gun, trust, stiletto, tender, hotel, confessions, fight, wolf, saved, girls, lies, vanity, inexperience, restless virgin, innocent, willing, heartbreak, torment, stories.

These are Faile stories, reconfigured with a slicing knife down the middle of the belly, an idiosyncratic collaged pop/pulp style that owes as much to the Dadaist Hannah Höch and pop collage originator Richard Hamilton as it does to Lichtenstein’s sense of storybook romance and Warhol’s repetitive emotional distance.

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FAILE. The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In the book accompanying the exhibit, Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director for Exhibitions and Collections Management, who organized the exhibition, says the presentation of the arcade in a museum setting “highlights how the present work relates to the art of the past and expands our expectations of the use of public spaces dedicated to art.” Here, she says, “Deluxx Fluxx’s arcade machines, which are simultaneously sculptures and functioning games, may call to mind Surrealism, Dada, and Fluxus, as well as the enigmatic boxed assemblages of Joseph Cornell.”

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Similarly, the signature Temple project has not been presented in its entirety in museum settings previously, and it feels like it is a bit of inspired genius when you are standing in its shadow beneath the soaring sky light at the Brooklyn Museum. The full scale church in ruins was presented out of doors in Praça dos Restauradores Square in Lisbon in conjunction with Portugal Arte in 2010. Echoing its surroundings in Lisbon, the Temple here is also a willful remix of the epic and the rather lesser so.

Culture-jamming at its height, it’s a punk subversion in ceramic, marble and iron that simultaneously genuflects and gives the finger to antiquity and to our soulless consumer culture. By casting reliefs of stylized font-work, romance novelette themes, and ads for call girls in puzzling non-sequitors, the Temple ridicules vapidity while honoring connections to age-old themes, sort of humbling all involved. Here again Faile is questioning the received wisdom of art history, religious customs, and tales of great societies we’ve learned to be reverent of, or maybe just questioning our true knowledge of history altogether.

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

During the last months while it was being unpacked and assembled we heard the Temple also called a tomb, a mausoleum, a chapel – the differences shared by their ties to the architecture and sculpture and tiled mosaics and ceramic under one roof. The roof in this case is destroyed – possibly because it caved in or because it was ripped off by an angry god who said, “You have missed my point entirely!”

In any case it is a formidable structure allowing meditation, reflection, confusion. In an act of ultimate bait and switch, Faile has deliberately played with what you are supposed to be paying attention to, substituting the associated original intended and inferred meanings of a religious institution and its power. You approach with reverence, looking perhaps for an allegorical means to access the transcendental, but expected symbols have been supplanted by the shallow relics of a culture you may have intended to escape.

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ultimately Faile is not unlike a lot of the world’s great religions; Comforting, reassuring, challenging, mysterious, inpenetrable. Sometimes you have the feeling that there are other people who understand it much better than you. Oh, ye of little Faile. Lean not upon your own understanding. Failes ways are not necessarily our ways. Whether these words and narratives are written by man or handed down from a higher power, why sweat it? It’s a holy good show.

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds the Brooklyn museum is once again meaningfully invested in the present and jumped ahead in the examination of what clearly is the first global grassroots art movement, giving the stage to the current century’s voices of the street – perhaps because it has engaged with the city’s artists and communities.

With an enormous new Kaws sculpture in the lobby, Basquiat’s notebooks and Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition in the same year, Faile adds an important voice to the local/global narrative and to the dialogue about the appropriate role of art in the public sphere and major institutions in the cultural life of the community they a part of.

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Temple. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Fantasy Island.  “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Wolf Within. Detail. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Ripped canvases. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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FAILE. Ripped canvases. “Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” Brooklyn Museum, July 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” at the Brooklyn Museum will open Friday, July 10th. Click HERE for further information.

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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Kabul to Brooklyn, Street Art and Graffiti as Common Ground

Kabul to Brooklyn, Street Art and Graffiti as Common Ground

Afghanistan is not the first place you think of when someone says Street Art scene and Kabul would certainly be sort of low on your list of urban art festivals to check out, but surprisingly it has both. These are a couple of the revelations we had earlier this month when BSA welcomed three 20-something artists to tour the streets of Brooklyn – and meet one of our own homegrown Street Art duos in their studio.

Abul Qasem Foushanji, Ommolbanin Samshia Hassani, and Sayed Mohebullah Ramin Naqshbandi were all good sports despite the brutishly cold February day – in fact Sayed had a fairly light jacket on because he said it gets as cold or colder back home in Mazar-i Sharif where he is a painter and student who has tried his hand at stencil work.

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From left to right Qasem, Shamsia and Sayed in front of an Icy & Sot mural in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Qasem and Samshia both grew up in Iran, so it made sense that they were excited when we began the tour by checking out the large mural done by Iranian émigrés and brothers Icy & Sot, who now live in Brooklyn. While Arthur, our astutely amiable co-host from the State Department, helped keep the mini-van warm and free of parking tickets, their escort/interpreter Mr. Aziz walked up and over the snowbanks with us while we checked out works by a number of graffiti and Street Artists all around the North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

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Shamsia, Qasem and Sayed in front of ROA’s squirrel mural in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Central Asian country of Afghanistan has historically eschewed modern art as being unacceptable and much art was destroyed by the Taliban in the last few decades for being un-Islamic.

With such a restrictive atmosphere it was good to learn that Qasem plays bass in a thrash metal band, does sound installations and has experimented with abstract expressionism – something that would have been unheard of in the 90s. “In the early 2000s when the Taliban left the country, there was nothing,” he says as he observes a gradual building of hope in the creative community.

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Shamsia in front of Galo’s mural in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As the sun went down we were welcomed into the vast office and studio of Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeal, who together comprise the Brooklyn based Street Art collective better known as Faile. Having just walked the same streets where the Patricks began many of their experiments at the turn of the century, it was a great opportunity for the guests to see what a world-class art making studio looks like, to ask questions, and to share some stories about how the scenes on streets of Brooklyn and Kabul differ.

brooklyn-street-art-740-Mr-Aziz-C215-Feb-2014-webMr. Aziz takes a cell phone snap of a rusted C215 piece while Sayed looks on. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Speaking about their early days of illicit art posting, McNeal explains “You’d go out and you get to the wall and it’s quick,” he says with a snap of the fingers. “You’re not taking the time, necessarily, to think. And then you finish it up and get away from it and you came back to see it the next day. There was something loose in it, where now everything gets very tight and refined,” he says as he gestures to the large artworks in progress across the tables and the floor of the studio.

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Qasem takes Shamsia’s portrait in front of Nelson Mandela’s portrait by Jason Coatney in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Yeah, it’s changed a lot over time,” says Miller about the street art scene, especially in the area of Williamsburg that has become a high-rent playground for professionals and well-heeled college kids. “Real estate, gentrification, a lot of those things have played into it in a lot of places like here and Barcelona where you used to see a lot more things on the street, it doesn’t really exist.”

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Sayed, Qasem and Shamsia in front of a Faile wheatpaste in Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

One thing we learned is that Shamsia doesn’t even usually feel that she can go on the street in Kabul to create her work because she fears berating words, insults and possibly worse from people who don’t think a woman should be doing such a thing.  And would never go out after dark. “It’s for the boys to go out at night. I wish to do so also but I am a girl. It is dangerous,” she says with regret, but is determined to use her art to advocate for the rights of girls and women in whatever way that she can.

One project she calls “Graffiti Dreams” is comprised entirely in her imagination and on her computer – where she creates virtual street art scenes on buildings she has photographed as a way to at least paint walls in her mind. “That’s nothing, but for me it is everything because I can do graffiti somehow.” She took out her iPad to show McNeal some of her renderings.

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Shamsia poses in front of the same Faile piece she just saw in the street, but this time it’s at Faile’s studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

After British graffiti artist Chu held a one-week graffiti workshop for nine artists in Kabul in 2010 where the concept of graffiti and street art was introduced from a Western perspective, Shamsia and other young artists took the art form to heart.

She has traveled internationally in the last few years meeting other artists and sometimes collaborating with them like Tika from Zürich, Berlin’s Klub 7, and the well known Los Angelelino Street Artist El Mac, with whom she did two collaborations now on display in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and in Brisbane, Australia.

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The Afghani artists pose with Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil of Faile at their studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

McNeal asked Samshia, “How did you get exposed to graffiti?,” and Samshia talked about the workshop with Chu and how it affected her.

“I thought if I did graffiti then I could introduce art to the people,” she says, “Because no one goes to exhibitions and galleries – only some very important people are invited to exhibits. And I thought that I could put art in the street for all people and maybe they have never seen that there is this art.”

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Qasem and Patrick Miller. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“How do you get spray paint there?” he followed up.

“There are very bad quality spray paint there,” she replies with a smile. “These are just for color to put somewhere. It’s not really for painting. The color drops a lot, and I’m not changing the size of the caps. Sometimes I do the small details with small brushes because the spray can is not able to do very thin lines.”

“That’s cool though,” McNeal encouraged, “ because that will inform your style and the way that you work.”

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Shamsia and Patrick McNeil. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As one of the first graffiti artists in Kabul, Shamsia is also unusual because most practicing artists of any discipline are men – and women face resistance to their participation in many roles, including as an artist on the street. Now an associate professor at Kabul University where she leads workshops to teach students how to use aerosol spray to create art, Ms. Hassani created a festival this December to highlight graffiti and Street Art as an art practice.

Her own work features stylized women in blue burqas, fish, and calligraphy that references poetry.  As often happens, the definition of graffiti and street art are slightly different in Afghanistan than they would be in western cities like London and New York, often closer to what might be called murals or community walls.

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Qasem and Patrick look through some Faile gems. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

For now she is planning a new program when she returns to Kabul University in the spring.

“Another graffiti workshop is coming too for some children who have no parents. They are often very small girls and they have no parents and I want to help them and have a workshop for them,” she explains about her desire to provide restorative healing through art in a city torn by war. “I will start to teach a new subject, making characters, because there is nothing like that right now. I would like to add characters, because everyone likes characters. I would like to teach some technical steps, some secrets of how to make them.”

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Artists talk (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The night ends with tea, cookies, and conversation in a warm living room and the artists talk about some of their projects, internet service, social media, and other ways that society is evolving and what they hope for art in Afghanistan. As he describes his work future projects Sayed says would like to create politically themed messages for the street. Qasem talks about a culture-jamming project creating a false college course advertisement that may also be humorous. Then in a flash, the visit is over, numbers and emails are exchanged and they get ready to go back out in the cold.

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In 2012 Shamsia collaborated with Los Angeles based Street Artist El Mac on two murals in Sai Gon, Vietnam. The first mural was painted in September of 2012 in front of Sàn Art, an artist non-profit contemporary art organization in Sai Gon. The second mural, also painted in Sai Gon was unveiled in Brisbane, Australia at the Asia Pacific Triennial in December 2012.

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An El Mac and Shamsia collaboration in front of Sàn Art. Sai Gon,Vietnam. September, 2012. (photo © courtesy of Sàn Art)

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El Mac and Shamsia “Birds of a Nation” collaboration. Brisbane, Australia. December 2012. (photo © courtesy of Viet Nam The World Tour)

The figure in the center is a portrait of Shamsia by El Mac from photographs that he took of her. The writing that surrounds the portrait is a poem by Ms. Hassani which she integrated with her own designs. The poem reads:

پرنده های بی وطن ،همه اسیرن مثل من ،صدای خواندن ندارن

Birds of no nation
Are all captive
Like me
With no voice for singing

Ommolbanin Shamsia Hassan: Afghanistan Graffiti

 

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FAILE’s Towering Night at the Ballet

FAILE’s Towering Night at the Ballet

The dance of high and low art lifts 40 feet into the air as Brooklyn Street Art duo Faile unveil their repertoire of ironic pop imagery at the New York City Ballet this week. As street artists in the then-industrial wasteland of Williamsburg at the turn of the century, Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil would have not sought such attention but ducked the bright lights as they aerosol sprayed their stencils on street walls in the late hours.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Now in this most unusual high/low hallelujah junction, NYCB’s Peter Martins brings Faile’s towering visual vocabulary, rising and spilling out at the base, into this hallowed Phillip Johnson designed atrium at the modernist Lincoln Center. Like a painted wooden fountain, Faile’s recombinant cultural appropriations reach a new height; their 5-month study of NYCB’s printed archives producing newly entwined storylines and inflections mirroring those they once imagined only for the street.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you walk around its base and view it from the tiered balcony gallery, you can see Faile is messing with stuff again: the re-imaginings of dancers with half-sleeve tattoos as Faile brings in skater culture, the remixing of bodega signage and graffiti writing with art-deco showbill refinement, and even the sly dark humor of a ballerina flying through the air past an appreciative viewer as she sunnily gleams out her high-rise New York apartment window. This is the visual vocabulary that unfolds in your manège around the base; the imagery, symbols, and pop witticisms that Faile layers deliberately into this one-column retrospective. For their hardcore fans, there are of course the Mao, the Prince Charles, the horse-headed surfer and monkeys in dresses. And 1986.

 

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How did it get here, a soon-opening exhibit “Les Ballets de Faile”? Not a typical gig for Street Art, true, but ballet as an art form has a sort of thinning crowd of fans while Street Art has a sort of exploding one – one that is capturing the imagination of many of the same people these seats have been missing.

“It is such an institution,” says Faile’s Patrick McNeil as he describes the New York City Ballet, “You have people who have been coming for 30-40-50 years to see performances.” Precisely. Quick tangential math inspired by that statement helps explain the necessity of bringing in artists like Faile and coaxing in the Millenials, who will hopefully pry themselves from the glowing blue little screens in their laps long enough to watch the live show onstage. Well perhaps they could send one discreet Tweet about it – #faileballetisawesome .  One additional benefit will be that the dancers will see at least some people their own age when the lights come up.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“So we had a meeting with Peter Martins, who is the Ballet Master in Chief,” says the other Faile, Patrick Miller, as he talks about the new art series the ballet is sponsoring, “and we just kind of showed him our work and all the things we had done – it was amazing actually. He was so enthusiastic. And when we heard of all the artists who have been involved with them before we were just like, “Alright, just tell us when you are ready to say ‘go’!” – A completely understandable response when you realize you’ve just joined a list of artists that include Warhol, Noguchi, Clemente, and Lichtenstein, among others.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

During a recent visit to the duo’s studio in Brooklyn, Patrick and Patrick showed a number of the works that will be on display on the tower, as well as some of the variations on the ballet themes that may not. Because they believe strongly in their process of discovery, the end results, however precise, can be sort of surprising to them. Not that they didn’t do their homework.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you gained access to the archives of visual materials from the New York City Ballet…
Patrick Miller: Yeah so they opened up the archives – they were way underground some place in the Wall Street area – all their old programs, ephemera, – and we kind of took a lot of that in… (he gestures to a wood painting) this body of the dragon is in a perfume ad in one of the playbills and after seeing the ballet I liked the idea of seeing lightning bolt legs for the ballerinas, so…

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The two Faile nights at the ballet quickly sold out because of this marrying of high and low, and possibly because the $29 ticket price also came with a 2” x 2” wooden Faile block made especially for the occasion. For the guys, it looks like a sweet and entertaining fusion of disparate elements – like they are accustomed to. “We were not into ballet, and we didn’t really know much about ballet,” says McNeil about their experience at the outset, “Our work is from the street and something that is not really from that world at all. We felt a little out of place just going there, you know.”

After many conversations, studies, sketches, paintings, screen prints, and nights stacking wood blocks, they don’t have any doubt that Faile belongs at the ballet. After their opening February 1st, few will.

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile. Detail. Studio Visit (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower installed in the atrium for the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower installed in the atrium for the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Faile Tower. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The theater will hold open hours for one week beginning Sunday, February 10 so you can stop by and view the new Faile exhibit. “Les Ballets de Faile” will remain installed on the promenade of the theater from January 15 – February 24, 2013.

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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Faile Studio Visit: Readying for Rubenstein

Faile Studio Visit: Readying for Rubenstein

A visit with Street Art collective Faile in their Brooklyn studio finds the industrious duo at the center of a small cluster of assistants working on many projects simultaneously.

Faile Studio. Print Shop. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The print shop at the Faile studio. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The air of collaboration is evident in this maze of activity – as well as an appreciation for process.  The multi-level ex-industrial building has been reconfigured internally over the last decade to contain and accommodate the adventurous appetites of the childhood buddies who took their Street Art from Brooklyn to the Tate, with many stops along the way.

This doesn’t happen for everybody, so in this first visit of two before their upcoming debut solo show at Perry Rubenstein Gallery on November 4, we looked for clues about the creative and working DNA of Faile. In the ten quick long rotten beautiful years of this century they’ve plowed through many experiments methodically from simple one color small stencils on light posts to now museum quality raft-sized wooden block collages that take months to screenprint, saw, sand, and assemble.

Faile First Street Work 1999 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

One of Faile’s first street pieces from the late 90’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

In a pretty remarkable run through the neighborhood and the globe the two Patricks have used aerosoled stencils, screen prints, wheat pastes, roller tags, animated video games, carved wood, vinyl sculptures, spinning prayer poles, even alabaster and tile reliefs in their ever growing collection of work. Cumulatively, the forays have given depth and resilience to their nearly iconic pop imagery.

Details of Multiple Art In Progress At The Studio (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Details of multiple pieces in progress at the studio (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since returning from their Lisbon temple installation mid summer, where their piece (two years in the making) became a focal point for that city’s first biennial, the Faile dudes are now making a multitude of these “wood paintings” here in their Brooklyn studio.  Among the many silkscreens stacked against walls, rolled canvasses in tubes, and pieces by Banksy and Shepard Fairey adorning the walls, there are open wooden boxes, maybe 20 or 30, full of small wooden printed blocks laying open on tables and shelves.

Brooklyn Street Art: When the blocks get that small they are almost just a texture.
Patrick McNeil:
Exactly, or just color palette.  It’s so modular you don’t get stuck with anything, you get to explore a lot and if it doesn’t work you just put it back the way that it was or pull it apart.

Brooklyn Street Art: That’s right, you can reverse yourself pretty easily

Patrick McNeil: Yeah you just kind of build a piece and then realize it works better in something bigger – so they are very loose in a sense. It seems very precision-y and thought out but it’s much more looser than it looks.

Jesus Faile Projected on the Manhattan Bridge for DUMBO Arts Fest 2008 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile’s Jesus appears on the side of the Manhattan Bridge during Brooklyn Street Art’s “Projekt Projektor” show in Brooklyn during the DUMBO Arts Festival  in 2008 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The selective sampling of images that create the Lingua Faile has steadily grown into a library of totems, symbols, pulp art snippets, typefaces and signifiers set free from their context and recombined with a lucid dexterity, a splash of irony, and an inner voice that says, ‘go for it’.  It’s an old-skool visual sampling that doesn’t need autotune for anything, just a hyped sense for combining clips and dropping it on the beat. Talking to them, one sees that it’s a loose intuitive sense that is guiding the process.

Patrick McNeil: And I like what is happening in this one, it’s still coming along. That one, the bottom needs to be worked out. It’s really top heavy. And we’ll kind of pull some colors down. That one is just kind of getting started. This one’s kind of in the middle right now; Just slowly working on blacks and switching things up.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you’ve used a lot of powdered pastels…

Patrick McNeil: Yeah…

Brooklyn Street Art: let’s see, blasting fluorescents…

Patrick McNeil: Well a little bit, yeah. There are not too many fluorescents, well, that pink is probably the only fluorescent.  Well, there’s yellow on that one. But none of these have any fluorescent.

Brooklyn Street Art: I’m thinking of the DeLuxx Flux thing you did with Bast.

Patrick McNeil: Yeah Perry made the rule, “no fluorescents”.

Brooklyn Street Art: Oh okay. Well it’s good to have that guidance.

Patrick McNeil: Yeah, we might sneak one in there.

Patrick McNeil: Then we were looking more at abstractions, breaking color groups up, pushing it really far.

Brooklyn Street Art: Yes that’s an unusual combination of the violet and the grey. It looks fresh.

Patrick McNeil: Yeah, it’s kinda switchin’ it up.  We kind of like tweak things and leave them up for a while and then switch it out. It’s kind of interesting.

Wood Blocks At The Studio (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Wood blocks at the studio (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Even though the new book, their first, is coming out to mark the first 10 years that took them from Brooklyn streets to group shows, street art exhibitions, galleries, and museums around the globe, the creative partners are focusing right now on the work at hand.  A decade of work, play, and planning together has created a shorthand of cues and patterns and symbols that makes their work move quickly without much strife or discussion. In the studio it’s equal parts industry and creativity – where real world dedication to process and structure adds a loose tension to the spirit of play.

Brooklyn Street Art: Are you both the leader? Or do you take turns being the leader? Is there one who just says “THIS is where we have to go!”

Patrick McNeil: It goes back and forth really.

Patrick Miller: It’s pretty rare when it is “This is the way it has to be and there is no room for discussion”

Brooklyn Street Art: So you don’t come to loggerheads?

Patrick McNeil: No, we’ve known each other since we were 14 so we’ve got a pretty good friendship.

Faile Book Cover: "Faile Prints And Originals 1999-2009" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile Book Cover: “Faile Prints And Originals 1999-2009” (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The new block collages, or “wood paintings” started about a year ago and the artists introduced them at Cour Carrée du Louvre for the FIAC in Paris. With a loyal fanbase that hangs on their every print release and microsite revelation, the new pieces were an instant hit and complete success. The scale of pieces at that time seemed manageable and something you might carry as part of your luggage; however some of these new wood paintings for the Rubenstein show might well be snagged by Swoon for walls in one of her Konbit shelters.

Brooklyn Street Art: How do you achieve a sense of balance? You have the professional, personal,… family is growing.. How do you guys achieve a sense of balance regularly?

Patrick Miller: For one, we treat this like a pretty regular thing in the sense of working Monday through Friday, pretty much 9:30 to 6:00.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you have a schedule and a structure.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, so we have structure in that sense.  It’s a business after all on some level, and it has to be thought of in that way too.  I mean it’s tough some times when we have big shows going on and we’re traveling and trying to not be away from the kids for too long.  But you know, I guess I never stopped to think about it. It was nice last year because Patrick and his wife had their second child and we had our first within a few weeks of each other, and so that worked out really well, in the sense of timing-wise. We were able to slow down a bit.

Brooklyn Street Art: You know I was just thinking about the blocks and interactivity. I wonder if you could make a piece where some of the blocks were free and the person who buys it could play with the blocks.

Patrick Miller: Hey, you’re really onto something!

Patrick McNeil: Let’s go upstairs.

Brooklyn Street Art: You’ve already thought of this!

Faile Early Work On The Street. Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Early work on the street. Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

We shuffle eagerly behind our hosts like hypnotized penguins out to the darkened hallway and up some stairs to a high security print room that is pristine and plum full of stuff that might make you cry – things they’ve collected, been gifted, or just like to entertain visitors with. They could drop names but the brothers Faile are more interested to show one of their newest inventions, a wooden tray of blocks that form a puzzle – well, six actually. The lo-tech games perfectly marry our current digital longing for interactivity and the latent one to become a Luddite.

Patrick Miller: (The puzzle boxes) kind of came up in Paris, so we just developed these pieces on the side totally on their own. Then we started thinking there are some situations and combinations that we really liked. Each one is printed on all six sides and you can manipulate it and play with it.

Brooklyn Street Art: Hours of endless pleasure! How do you prevent them from getting damaged?

Patrick McNeil: That’s just part of it.

Patrick Miller: I don’t think they’re going to get too damaged. They are already sanded and their meant to be touched. We’re actually making a site, because it’s really hard to show them.

Brooklyn Street Art: Have you thought of customization on the site so people can select options and order it?

Patrick: Yes we’ve thought of that but effectively you’d have tons of combinations.

Faile Wood Blocks At The Studio (Photo <a href=

@ Jaime Rojo)” width=”740″ height=”416″ /> Faile wood blocks at the studio (Photo @ Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Have you thought of doing an app for these so people can play with them?

Patrick: Yeah and that is something that may come out of it. The people that we work with… That would be a fun thing, as a little game. And it’s actually pretty simple because the navigation is just like ‘click’ and it turns it. It should be a fun little site. It’s been fun to do these little micro sites.

Brooklyn Street Art: Right, with a phone’s motion sensor you could roll the blocks around. Wow, you guys are on top of it.

Faile Prints And Originals 1999-2009. A Peak Inside The Book (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile Prints And Originals 1999-2009. A peak inside the book (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

This visit draws to an end with a promise to rejoin shortly before the show to see the progression. But before we go, the new book is placed with slight aplomb on the counter. The one and only copy they’ve received from the printer, we stare at it like cats at an aquarium.  The splashy pink raging dog cover says the thing about Faile you might not notice on a casual tour; these guys are ferocious in their desire to succeed and have built a body of work to prove it.

Tentatively peeling back the pages of the book, we see that the first image is the simple stencil of a figure carrying a canvas with his back to you and the words “A Life”, their first name, across the top. Anyone stumbling home drunk through industrial Williamsburg in the late 90’s would remember what curiosity was sparked with this humblest of images scattered everywhere.  Later they anagrammed it to form their current name.

Brooklyn Street Art: So “A Life” got converted to Faile, which is just the opposite of what you’ve done!

Patrick Miller: Yeah it was always kind of about growing from it and making the most of all your failures.

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you both design the book?

Patrick Miller: We worked on it with a friend of ours.  It was such an undertaking.  But it’s good. It’s definitely a pretty personal book in the way that it’s written, very friendly, an enjoyable read.  It’s nice just to have the works on print.

Patrick McNeil: It’s nice to see the earlier work, and it’s nice to see how the process goes because it’s chronological as well.

Brooklyn Street Art: Who is going to have seen all of this stuff besides you two? Nobody.

Patrick Miller: It’s a nice way to put it together for yourself too, after 10 years of working on Faile it’s nice to have this.

Faile. Enter To The Gift Shop. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile studio. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


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