Sunday, June 6th, 2010
Most of us around here agree that there is little new in street art that warrants gallery presentation. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the far too bloated genre. On the one hand, even the best graffiti art can suffer a loss of viability and meaning in formal display. On the other, there are the countless bandwagoneers who have taken to the streets in a soulless pursuit of financial gain within the art establishment – theirs has no legitimate claim to public view. Simply put, good graffiti doesn’t mean good exhibition art, and bad graffiti is just insulting. These days it can be quite a chore to weed through the clutter – both inside and outdoors.
FAILE has consistently been one of the rare exceptions. The duo have rightfully established themselves at the forefront of contemporary street art, reaching far beyond their early formula of combining Lichtensteinesque comic book mash-ups with masterful in-house printing. Their more recent forays into sculpture and production have yielded a unique brand of pop-Americana that has rightfully breached the confines of the Lazarides camp, winding up in tried and true venues, like Art Basel and even Gagosian.
The Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, their latest offering created in collaboration BÄST, is far from their most compelling work. With recent installations in London and New York, the result is more interactive video art than functional arcade. The only challenge pinball wizards will find here is to make sense of the near seizure-inducing mash-up of Faile and Bast motifs, churned through the rudimentary capabilities of 1980s gaming processors. Amidst a backdrop of black-light posters, the result is more spectacle than spectacular. One gets the sense this was done purely for kicks, and ideally it was not intended to be passed off as anything more – then again, the hefty price tags are a lot of cash to shell out on a box of fun. At the end of it all, while Deluxx Fluxx falls short of delivering what Faile are capable of, it hopefully signals the natural growing pains of a creative unit back-stepping along the way to something beyond nostalgic retro kitsch.
Up next for Faile, is Cathedral Project, a giant sculptural installation in the heart Lisbon, opening July 16 in conjunction with Portugal Arte 10. We fully expect to see something grand.