(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.

24 April 2013

Saber: Process, Politics and Palomino Beige

Last Thursday, Saber&Rostarr opened at Opera Gallery and the popular artist duo drew quite the crowd from young fans, artists, collectors, to old school graffiti cats. Luckily I was able to pull Saber aside for a few minutes (even then he was intermittenly approached by friends and fans praising his work and asking him for photos) to talk about his process,politics and the power of palomino beige.
Base Elements, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
The show’s overarching theme is calligraffiti, given its namesake one can surmise that this is the combination of calligraphy and graffiti, yet Saber was much more explicit: “It is the mastery of the brush or can.” In Rostarr’s All Eyez on You we see the confidence of his brushstroke––clean, tight and linear. In Saber’s Base Elements it’s more about desegmentation: the letters come alive, semi-translucent and their lines fluid. For Saber, “the most abrasive and celebrated element of this work is the fat cap and the style it creates.” Here, the palamino beige is on canvas, yet the reference has further implications. It’s the color you see when your wall has been buffed, specifically in L.A. What the artist spoke most about was the idea that these walls, those written upon outdoors, like canvases, live and breathe like us. The city can paint over a piece of art work, perhaps one that they do not like, or consider illegal, and they buff it out. Over time, that buffed topcoat begins to crack and again that underlying layer resurfaces, exposing an ideaology that Saber adheres to: the walls become organic vessels, breathing, cracking, changing over time. It was Jackson Pollock who once claimed it was on the floor where he was most at ease, well, Saber, said he feels the same way about walls. Saber’s relationship with the walls he paints illustrates and embodies a universal sensibility that the work of an artist has the ability to reflect the ever changing condition of life and time.

Beautiful Outbreak, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
The artist, part of the MSK crew based in L.A., has quite the following and quite the political voice. With over 17K followers on Twitter and over 25K on Instagram, it is clear that the world is listening. His political attitude and beliefs are evident in his work, yet more subtle and symbolic. The American flag is a recurring motif in his work, which we see in Beautiful Outbreak; the painting conveys an undertone that emphasizes a more minimal style, expressing his love/hate relationship with the government. He was particularly passionate about how much money Los Angeles spends each year on graffiti removal ($30 million) and the lack of government funding for art education.

Subductus 3, 2013.  Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery
Always experimenting with new processes in his studio, Saber is working more with mixed-media. In Subductus 3 the artist buries the text under the beige buff, like graffiti is covered outdoors. Just as outdoor walls begin to crack, Saber creates a process in the studio where he’ll “rip” the work in the last step, discovering the color. The color becomes the light. The literal layers of his paintings create layers of dialogue that address an idea of suppression. “We subconsciously accept suppression. Graffiti is an attempt to search for something”–– to look beyond the layers, the stigma, and equate both the studio work and graffiti simply as an act of expression.

Rostarr, All Eyez on You.  Photo Courtesy of Opera Gallery

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