|SABER, Graffiti Writer featured in Infamy, of AWR crew
Graffiti doesn’t keep a Guinness Book of World Records, but if it did, you would find Infamy featured artist Saber ruling the “Biggest” category. Saber was a living legend of Los Angeles graffiti, but when in 1997 he executed the largest graffiti painting ever created, it made his legend status global at the age of 21. His painting along the sloping cement banks of the Los Angeles River bed measured 250’ x 55’ – nearly the size of an NFL football field – and took 97 gallons of paint and a year of carefully planned nights to complete. Every supply for the LA Riverbed painting had to be hauled over barbed wire and through gangland, then applied without attracting the attention of either the Amtrak or Los Angeles police departments, both of whom patrol the area from the ground and the air. After a year of work, Saber had blown out his knee working on the slanted surface, but completed the painting. His father crept into the desolate area across the River from the giant artwork, and after several chases from gangsters eager to relieve him of his camera, took photos of his son, striding across the surface of his own artwork. Saber is not a small guy, but he doesn’t even fill one of the small holes in the B at the center of his name.
The LA Riverbed painting is the centerpiece of Saber’s graffiti career to date, but is one of dozens of pieces that he has executed across the United States (and even a few in Europe) that have become the stuff of graffiti legend, the kind of street fame impossible to build artificially. When the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History made a giant diorama exhibit on the Los Angeles River, it was only fitting to call on Saber to create a monumental piece in it: he was a part of the real thing. As Saber explains in the film, the drive of a twenty-year-old to begin a painting the size of a football field is the same as the drive of any other graffiti writer. “Every single graffiti writer is a manic depressive, insecure person, because that’s the only thing that makes you want to go out and write on somebody’s shit.” That’s the personal side, but the fact of living in the city also contributes to the fascination, as Saber continues: “we are the ones who are ultimately obsessed with cityscape, and who have the ultimate desire to control the visuals on cityscapes.” Saber learned a lot of the tools for controlling cityscape visuals right at the dinner table. Now 29 years old, Saber was born and raised in Glendale by creative-industry artist parents, spending a great deal of time in and around the Art Center. About five years ago, he began to work in art and design himself, taking jobs for Harley-Davidson, Levis, die casting company Maisto, as well as movie sets and music videos for several pop artists that are household names around the world. He took commissions from Hyundai and Scion to customize cars, and did voice-overs in a nationwide radio commercial for the latter. MTV even flew him to Tokyo to film him painting live.