I've got issues with the Houston mural wall, but I can't hold it against this new one by Faile. It's my favorite so far. Maybe that's because I like comic books and movie posters and the ephemera of pop culture. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for the gorgeous decay of urban street art and advertising, how the paper rips and tears, revealing layer upon layer underneath.
Anyway, I can see the trouble with something and still enjoy it--as I did a couple of weeks ago when I stopped to watch Faile--also known as Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller--put the finishing touches on their mural.
I wound up talking to one of the Patricks while the other Patrick was pasting a Chairman Mao to the wall. He explained the way that many different existing designs had been incorporated into the collage. The woman shooting the bunny rabbit is from "Heartbreak in Brooklyn." The bikini girl in the dinosaur's mouth comes from "It Happens Everyday." And the Asian lady with the dragon is a piece of "Seduction of the Mask."
He told me how the images and text have all been pulled from found sources, saying, “We consider ourselves scavengers” of pop culture.
As the Chairman Mao needed direction, Patrick stepped up, telling the other Patrick, “Tear it a little more. A little more. A little lower. That’s right.”
How do you put together a giant collage on Houston Street? Piece by piece. Taped to the railing of their Skyjack scissor lift was the map to the work, showing the final layer they were applying.
Each piece is hand-painted in their studio, then torn, pasted to the wall, and torn some more. Many of the large tear lines, those ragged boundaries between one paper and another, are then painted white to help delineate one piece from the next.
The city itself is like this in places, one stratum revealed beneath the next. It used to be more this way. A rusted Automat sign perched atop a McDonald's, layers of ghost paint selling girdles next to beer ads, the name of a movie house half-covered by a XXX sign with "souvenirs" tacked over that.
Now, more and more, they're excavating right down to bedrock, erasing the strata to make us forget, to make the past disappear, as if the city had been born into glass from the start. And the Houston Wall? It began life as part of a handball court.
The Houston Wall
Billy on the Wall
Clayton on the Wall