FAILE-ure Averted

I’ll admit that I wanted to hate Faile‘s first solo New York show. Mostly because it looked like another street art attempt to commercialize and cash in. That being said, I ended up liking the Lower East Side exhibition, it was fun and playful, and demonstrated a strong attempt to step away from the graphic design that characterizes their street work and a leap towards making work that functioned well in a gallery setting.

But artists can sometimes be their own worst enemies and I think Faile has done itself an injustice by trying to create a fly-by-night show (4 days only) in a great location filled with some interesting (but not great) work. Check out my photos of the show.

The stone sculpture of a young boy kissing or resuscitating a bunny (depending on your perspective) is the best in the lot. Part Inuit sculpture, part public art, the monumentality of this clever image (a Faile staple) changes the cutsy form into something more substantial and impressive.

Who ever curated the show, should receive kudos for a job well done. Smartly placed spotlights smoke out the edges of the panels and makes them pop against the industrial backdrop–though the heat they generate makes the space super-hot, which on a warm spring day (like yesterday) made it somewhat intolerable.

The gamut of iconic images one comes to expect from Faile are all here: Richard Nixon, Mao, the Virgin Mary, Michael Jackson and little fuzzy critters…a little like Faile’s greatest hits.

The work doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s a relief, and the levity makes their work look more lively and interesting. But, I do have one major criticism…the duo need to hone their work to communicate clearly and not simply sink their works into an ocean of messages that are overwrought with dense iconography.

I wish the panels were more like the sculpture, which whittles down the visual hurricane Faile tends to produce. The saturated life of street art is a world away from the subdued existence of galleries. The placement of their highly-charged work can be inadvertently obnoxious without the oasis of reflection that gallery art requires.

Some FAILE street pieces in London. Wooster Collective’s post. FAILE on Flikr. A great interview with FAILE for a Japanese site.

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