Saber Tags Sky for Sake of Street Art

Saber Over Downtown Los Angeles I Courtesy of Birdman Photos

Saber was here I Birdman PhotosFreshly painted walls with high visibility will pump adrenaline through a graffiti artist with the same velocity as paint spitting out of an aerosol can. So when the skies over Downtown Los Angeles on Monday were a clear blue canvas, conditions were perfect for an artist who was planning to send a message to a higher level.

Saber, the highly regarded professional street artist to some and potential fugitive to L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies, replaced cans of paint with skywriting for a high noon art installation that protested the City of Los Angeles' moratorium on murals.

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The orchestrated demonstration began with a midday tweet from Saber: "IT'S ON! TODAY I OWN THE SKY OVER #LA" Then Saber's authored statements tagging the sky with statements like "#End Mural Moratorium," "Art Is Not A Crime," "Art Work Rebels," and signatured the piece with "Saber Revok Risky MSK" and Shepard Fairey's "Obey."

Also seen in the sky was "Juxtapoz," the art publication that wrote "you might as well take your public art to the next level."

Tagging the sky was an idea Saber first had when graffiti artist Revok was arrested at LAX in April 2011, he told KCET Departures. "Free Revok" was to be the message over downtown Los Angeles, a response to what Saber considers the criminalization of artists.

As the messages faded away in the afternoon, Saber said that the day's temporary installation, made by 5 planes and 300 characters, was funded mostly by himself. Other artists, including Shepard Fairey, helped with the undisclosed amount.

"It seems to be counterproductive to destroy art," explained Saber, who took on this to protest what he says is a city campaign to eradicate public art murals, a policy that also allows LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff's Department to "harass artists." "Millions of dollars are given to companies to buff art. Taxpayers pay for the censorship." He said the policies, first set forth to control tagging, ends up profiling all street artists as gang members.

Saber added that this is about business and property owners being having the freedom to show works on their wall. "Every mural should be protected," but artists should be protected as well. He claimed that authorities surveyed "Art In The Streets" to gather intelligence that led to street artists being raided at their homes.

Despite Monday's protest, he would support any kind of guidelines the city may come up with. "In the age of criminalization of a culture, it is going to have more problems," he said, pointing to the artists who are often profiled as gang members. "Things need to change."

More murals and street art commentary from Departures:

Our blog "Land of Sunshine" is about the shifting culture of our neighborhoods, as well as being a space for ideas. Stay in touch by liking KCET Departures on Facebook, following us on Twitter and subscribing to our RSS.

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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