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Faile Comes to Venice

Master printmaker Ramon De Larosa
PHOTO BY SHANNON COTTRELL

Fans of London dealer Steve Lazarides’ ephemeral L.A. art antics — Banksy’s “Barely Legal” show in 2006, Antony Micallef in 2007 and 2010’s pop-up gallery in Beverly Hills — will be glad to hear that with his new concept, Post No Bills, the British firebrand is finally putting down local roots. But it’s not a gallery — it’s a working print shop.

Created with co-founder Jordan Bratman and managed by savvy creative director Daniel Salin, Post No Bills will bring featured artists into town up to a month before the official opening to produce all the work in-house. There are already eight shows planned for the space, the stunning, newly renovated 2,200-square-foot former home of hipster hangout Equator Books on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. PNB launches into orbit on June 24 with a dynamic show from Brooklyn’s street art provocateurs Faile.

Lazarides is no doubt attracted to L.A.’s growing reputation as an art capital, and the city’s connection to street art has been solidified by MOCA’s attention-getting “Art in the Streets” show.

While Venice has its share of galleries, the neighborhood is not synonymous with shopping for blue–chip street art, unless touristy rope bracelets and names on rice hold secret value. Lazarides and partner Bratman aim to change all that with their unconventional new establishment. “We wanted to create a destination for prominent artists to come to the beach to make art that they love,” Bratman says. “Obviously the shop is a business, and we hope it’s a successful one, but we are focusing on an encounter that is pure and all in good fun.”

Lazarides, originally a photographer, currently runs three uber-successful nonconformist galleries in London (with one more planned for China), and is credited with activating Banksy’s career. Five years ago, Lazarides met Bratman, a music industry veteran and formidable street-art collector, who became his client. Lazarides was impressed by Bratman’s keen eye, and the two became fast friends. Their combined contact lists must contain unparalleled superstar connections, which are necessary for a lucrative start-up — and good parties.

The blueprint for Post No Bills is somewhat similar to Lazarides’ Outsiders gallery, an experimental birthplace for young talent in the Soho show circuit. But PNB takes a different approach by providing older, already established artists with a residency, affording them time to show off their print skills by making small-edition yet well-priced works with master local printmaker Ramon De Larosa.

The result is a modern version of the old-school print workshop, complete with hand-built silk screens, drying racks, squeegees and vats of high-quality inks. The computer on-site will be responsible only for credit card sales. Of course, the idea of artists, especially street artists, making prints is nothing new. But rare yet accessible, hand-finished designs from artists who sell originals for tens of thousands of dollars is noteworthy.

“This project is a new concept for these artists — getting them into the mindset of producing/using print-based media,” Lazarides explains via phone from Beijing. “Usually there’s a show of all originals and then a couple of prints thrown in at the end. This will be [exclusive] world-class art made affordable for the public.”

The two Patricks (McNeil and Miller) who make up the art collective known as Faile didn’t hesitate when offered PNB’s inaugural show, despite the condensed time frame. After receiving a call six weeks ago from Lazarides and Bratman, they put their already packed schedules into overdrive to accommodate the opening. This meant producing much of the work being shown at PNB in their New York studio instead of on the L.A. premises.

It’s been four years since Faile’s last big show in Los Angeles, and they’ve been redefining public art around the world ever since. They’re known for ambitious installations of elaborate prayer wheels, which are typically cylindrical spindles made from leather, cotton, metal or stone, with a Tibetan Buddhist mantra written on them. Faile’s hand-carved wooden versions — 12 to 14 inches in diameter, 29 inches high and weighing about 100 pounds — debuted with Lazarides at a show at an abandoned London schoolhouse and later was installed on their home streets in Williamsburg, N.Y. The wheels include Faile’s signature Peep Show fonts and surreal want ad–style visuals.

In a 2010 collaboration with Bast, they created a fake but operational arcade on the Lower East Side, Deluxx Fluxx, where all the glow-in-the-dark games were retrofitted with Faile and Bast imagery. Later, Faile made a breathtaking “temple” — a realistic, life-size ancient ruin of stone and iron, which sat in a public square in Lisbon for an all-too-brief time. “We’re working now to push the definition of what street art is,” McNeil says. “It’s evolved from spray paint and buckets at this point for us. We like to do things to throw tourists off their map.”

Their elaborate sculpture unfortunately won’t be making an appearance here, but PNB will feature Faile’s prints and hand-painted originals. It’s a retrospective with a lot of new work — McNeil describes the show as “125 works on paper representing 10 years of printmaking.”

Faile have always adapted their work to speak to the city they’re showing in. Their PNB show features colorful, multilayered collages influenced by comic books and retro editions of the Yellow Pages, which are representative of Faile’s signature, beautifully decayed street style, but with a SoCal treatment. The Patricks’ love of everything Mexican (especially food), and their fascination with the idea of “dirty Hollywood,” helped shape their concept for one of the limited-edition “L.A. Sex Ad” prints they’ve been making on-site for the show at PNB.

Longtime Faile devotees can look forward to seeing some of Faile’s most revered graphic characters — Bunny Boy, Scuba Horse and Jesus & Tiger. Miller says there are new images, such as a mermaid and her diving muse SubRosa, which they love, but their iconic images “are like family. They speak of a time and a place for some people [who] walked past a piece on the street every day for a year of their life.”

What can L.A. art fans expect in the future from Post No Bills? A bunch of influential Europeans, including Vhils, Conor Harrington and Zevs, move through for the next group show in July, followed by a fall showcase of American notables, sure to include local favorites and Laz mainstays David Choe and Sage Vaughn. And considering we’ve heard rumors of $20 prints, expect long lines and limited parking. Grab a cuppa from Intelligentsia up the street while you’re waiting and chill, dude. Print’s not dead!

FAILE: A DECADE OF PRINTS AND ORIGINALS | Post No Bills, 1103 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | Runs through July 24