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FAILE Messes with Texas

The artist-duo’s new show at the Dallas Contemporary embraces the wild, adventurous spirit of the Lone Star State


Almost, Tonight (detail), acrylic, silkscreen ink, and copper on wood in steel frame.

©FAILE 2013.

A larger-than-life bald eagle with a ferocious stare opens his enormous beak as a gun-toting cowgirl lassos him. Behind them is a rocky mountain range, and in front is a banner that reads “Where Wild Won’t Break.”

This fierce painting by FAILE, the artist team composed of Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil, was created while the duo was in Texas, and became the inspiration for their new exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary.

Also titled “Where Wild Won’t Break,” the show, which opens September 21, is FAILE’s first-ever solo museum exhibition. It features more than 30 of the artists’ recent collage-style paintings and hand-carved wooden wheels, as well as a portion of the graphic acrylic-on-wood tower they constructed for the New York City Ballet earlier this year.

Though this particular collection of works is meant to be viewed in a gallery, FAILE got their start working as street artists in Brooklyn and have created large-scale outdoor projects in many cities including Vienna, Shanghai, and Lisbon. Most recently, they completed an action-packed mural on the former Record Plant building on 44th Street in Midtown Manhattan, which was once the recording studio of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.

FAILE’s Patrick McNeil (left) and Patrick Miller (right) with their new mural on the former Record Plant building in New York.

©FAILE 2013.

Standing on a rooftop near Times Square last week, overlooking the Record Plant, Patrick Miller discussed the new mural, which is FAILE’s largest in New York. The piece features more than a dozen vividly colored images and lines of text that interlock to form what Miller calls an “urban tapestry.” It includes symbols commonly used by FAILE, such as a vintage hot rod and the Hindu deity Ganesha, as well as phrases like “Imagine Nothing Wild” and “New York Invasion!” that pay homage to the city and to the building’s history.

Similarly, the artists incorporated icons of the American Southwest—cowboys, horses, and of course, bald eagles—into the paintings they created for the Dallas show, blending their trademark style with the culture of that region. One painting particularly influenced by the imagery of the West is titled Secret Places, Savage. In the piece, kitschy slogans such as “This is Bad Lands: Where the Hammer Drops” are featured alongside classic images that include a pair of dueling cowboys and a girl resting on a sleeping horse underneath a star-filled night sky. And in another more text-driven work called Alone Is Not For Me, pithy sayings are paired with a mock advertisement for the Audubon Society of Alcatraz and a portrait of a horse, among other small images.

For Miller, the adventurous, impulsive nature of the West lent itself well to FAILE’s artwork because, as their name suggests, the duo embraces fallibility and spontaneity. “No matter how well you try to tame something wild,” he says, “chaos will always be a part of it.”

Click through the slideshow below for more Texas-inspired images:

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