I had set out to see the latest mural on the infamous graffiti wall, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, on the corner of East Houston Street and Bowery. Home to street artworks by well known artists for a few years now, this was the first time the work in the space had really captured my attention and interested me enough to go and see it up close. I’d seen the art from a distance, having driven past it numerous times. At 20 x 60 feet, it is an eye poppingly bright pop art poster. What the poster was of, I just couldn’t figure out. So I made my way to it yesterday, on foot.
The Wall Mural, from across the street
Owned by Tony Goldman, real estate investor, the Houston/Bowery Mural Wall has commissioned public art works for a number of years now. At a busy intersection and a few minutes walk from Soho and Broadway, this NYC neighbourhood is no stranger to street art. Artwork upon artwork has been pasted atop the display wall; a rotating roller-coaster of imagery. Most recently – Kenny Scharf spray-painted a colourful cartoonish work in November, 2010; it was covered up in June, 2011 by a large scale black and white photographic print by French artist, J.R. Four months later, the large scale photo was pasted over by the current papier-mâché collage creation by the artist collective, Faile. This is Tony Goldman’s seventh project over his graffiti wall – curated by art institution, ‘The Hole’ – and it is certainly the most interesting.
Colour against a wintry streetscape
Upon closer inspection, the assumed poster was actually an expansive collage, made of torn graphics and text; seemingly as if ripped straight out of a giant comic book and pasted in an organized mess, one piece on to of the other. Now I was really intrigued to know the story behind the artwork. I stood there for a while, seeing all kinds of pops – it seemed the longer I looked, the more art I saw.
The artists behind this montage of pop culture comic inspired imagery are Brooklynites, Patrick McNeil and Patrick Mullen, who have been collaborating on street and other art works since 1998.
The New York artist collaboration Faile… takes inspiration from the detritus of city walls. The decay of advertising and flyposting provides a platform to present their own take on the world of found imagery. These recognisable pop culture images are visible in their large-scale canvas works, representing a rich collage of the urban experience. In the spirit of collage, they’ve diversified into other areas including sculpture and bookmaking yet their work remains heavily indebted to printmaking and stencilling traditions.
Their first projects on the street had the title A Life, of which their name Faile was an anagram. The name was also an acknowledgement of the inevitable process of deterioration that an artwork suffered when exposed to the elements. (Tate Modern UK)
<Faile was invited to collaborate, with five other artists, in the Tate Modern’s first commissioned use of the building’s river façade for the first major public display of street art in London. The UK has helped fuel excitement for street art in being recognized as an art form by the broader public. (2008)>
For the Houston/Bowery mural, Faile used its own graphics – from both old and new works. Silkscreens, graphics influenced by 1950’s Sci-Fi vintage movie posters, logos (the traveler in me saw a part of Lufthansa’s brand name within the expansive work, straight away), Japanese hieroglyphs and other iconography are just a part of what make up the artists’ mashup.
Combining old silkscreens...
... with Sci-Fi...
...with Japanese hieroglyphs...
What seems to have been a painstaking few days of collaging started off as a design concept on a piece of paper. Based on it, large scale pieces were printed off, hand painted and then torn into pieces at Faile’s studio. With the help of something akin to a boom lift on location, the individual parts were placed and stuck with wheat paste, atop of J.R.’s old work, to create the collage. The final step involved filling in the gaps with more paint to present a finished, polished piece.
The finished work
When standing face to face with the mural, it really is very cool to see how well the art work has stood the test of time since its conception in October 2011. The lifespan of Faile’s mural is unknown though it is showing only minimal signs of wear. Unfortunately, it has been defaced in parts.
Is this necessary?
Appropriately displayed numerous times within the collage is the imaged text: “With Love and Kisses, Nothing Lasts Forever.” Perhaps in response to those who have been known to ruin works with their tags within as little as a week of the art going up, the Faile guys understand that their work could be vandalized despite security measures taken (cameras and guards). Inevitably, the work will be covered up or replaced when a new opportunity comes along. For now, I hope the art stays put for a while as it is quite the pop-art-show-stopper.
Nothing Lasts Forever....!
NB: Faile place works up regularly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A couple of recent works are on display on Wyeth Street: 1. “I used to be worth something.”
on Wyeth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
2. A 16-foot high industrial doorway decorated in stenciled grocery posters and the like. The duo collaborated with another street artist, Bäst to showcase a gallery of images with name wordplay.
Bäst and Faile collaboration in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
*Tate Modern| Past Exhibitions | Street Art.
To see more of the work’s creation, in-studio and on location, see their website:
FAILE :: Houston & Bowery :: New York City.