Scaling walls sans safety nets at the dead of night, graffiti artists risk life and limb to make their art. But the leap they make from street to gallery is just as tough a challenge in its way: in winning over the art world, they threaten the credibility as authentic outsiders that is their calling card. The consequence is a strange phenomenon: wealthy and successful artists such as Banksy who still slip out with their spray can and cling to their anonymity as a symbol of their rebelliousness.
For Saber, whose show The Ugly American opens at the Outsiders gallery in London’s Soho this week, the situation is a little different. Fired by a sense of social injustice, the Los Angeles-based artist has channelled his energy into a high-profile political activism that has left him nowhere to hide. In 2010, he attracted the opprobrium of the US right – including the wrath of Fox News – when he graffitied the Stars and Stripes in an effort to highlight the injustices of the US healthcare system. (The video he released was used by the US administration as part of its healthcare campaign.) A year later, he caused a sensation when he commissioned light aircraft to write slogans across the LA and New York skies that raged against cuts to the arts and against a new law censoring public murals.
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