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Art hits a wall, makes a splash

Architect Barbara Bestor turns her building in Silver Lake into a revolving display space. Graphic artist Blik is up first.

April 07, 2005|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

It's hard to miss along an otherwise nondescript street in Silver Lake: a building that stands out by virtue of its cheerfulness, adorned with fanciful cutouts of paisleys, ducks, ghostly faces and what seem to be splats of colorful paint.

The wall of art graces the front of Barbara Bestor Architecture, which gained notoriety last year as one of five firms chosen for Dwell magazine's second design competition. Bestor relocated her company last summer to the Silver Lake space, a former hair salon that needed a makeover and was situated along a stretch of Fountain Avenue lined with auto-repair shops. In what she calls "a response to context," the architect designed what looks like a 100-foot-long billboard.

"The vernacular of the auto-repair shop is that the building is the sign," Bestor says. "It's usually a bright color with a big name on it. Discount Tire is purple. High Tech Automotive is low-key and gray."

Bestor's sign is essentially her storefront, turned into a canvas that will be used for temporary artworks. The inaugural mural by Blik -- a Venice-based designer of self-adhesive decals, some inspired by graffiti -- is the first in what Bestor wants to be a series of site-specific creations.

"We were so thrilled that Barbara had this amazing concept to basically put up an art wall," says Scott Flora, a partner at Blik and one of Bestor's former students in UCLA's master of architecture program. "She's taken the concept of blending architecture and art, which is really interesting. There's something exciting about firms beginning to combine this other venue for expression."

Though Blik's designs can be seen in commercial settings, most are bought for homes. (See examples at www.whatis Flora sees the Silver Lake mural as an evolving performance piece.

"I'm interested to see if it gets tagged," he says of the building, which has been hit with graffiti in the past, "or if anyone peels the items away." Not that Flora would be opposed to that.

"We think it would be interesting to see if people relate to what we did," Flora says. "It's out there, for public consumption."

Bestor is soliciting designs from other artists, who receive no fee for their services. She says she is open to suggestions, although she admits a penchant for conceptual works. How would Bestor, who calls herself a "passive curator," respond to a building-wide mural of a nude?

"I'm not that passive," she says with a laugh.

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