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If you’ve been to the Brooklyn Museum within the past year, you’ve probably visited our Iris B. and Gerald Cantor Gallery on the 5th floor. It’s a grand, classical space with a central dome soaring to 70 feet, where we’ve featured spectacular installations by Swoon, Paul Ramirez Jonas, and Kehinde Wiley. Now, FAILE’s Temple occupies the gallery as the centerpiece of their exhibition, FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds.

Originally installed in Praça dos Restauradores in Lisbon, Portugal, FAILE’s Temple was inspired by Portuguese architecture and the reliefs of the fifteenth-century Florentine sculptor Luca della Robbia, but the subject of their reliefs and interior mosaics are drawn from contemporary sources.

While historical religious iconography often taught moral and spiritual lessons, FAILE’s reliefs and mosaics featuring scenes from New York City call for spirituality in the age of globalization. Inspired by their upbringing in the American Southwest, the artists responded to the ubiquitous presence, but also misuse of Native American sources by depicting warriors and spiritual Kachina figures as a way to imagine reclamation of the city and a return to a time unencumbered by the ills of contemporary society.

Upon entering the temple, visitors encounter FAILE’s prayer wheels. They have created these over the years, often situating them outdoors along Brooklyn sidewalks. They are based on Tibetan Buddhist devices central to daily spiritual practice. FAILE’s wheels are interactive sculptures that, with their secular icons, invite devotion of the everyday. The wheels also lead to marble sculpture of one of their signature characters—the Scuba Horse.

The exterior text (and the title of the exhibition)—“Savage Sacred Young Minds"—speaks to FAILE’s interest in youth culture and its often inherent contradictions. Young minds insatiably search for meaning, but are also uncontrolled in their rebellion against sanctioned systems in order to create their own language that is at once sacred and profane. The interior text—nada dura para sempre, or “nothing lasts forever”—is at once a warning and a sign of hope for future generations. 

Posted by Sharon Matt Atkins