In celebration of their recent collector’s edition bottle featuring the artwork of Futura, Hennessy gave a selected group of journalists the opportunity to go on a Los Angeles street art tour guided by SABER. For those who don’t know, SABER is one of LA’s most well known graffiti artists, who came to fame with his 1997 piece in the LA River, which was over 200ft long. We all met at The Roosevelt Hotel where we were invited onto a luxury tour bus. SABER then talked about the city and his life throughout our journey from Hollywood to downtown as we weaved about the traffic of the 101 freeway. In the beginning, he spoke mainly about how the beige of the city’s anti-graffiti paint was his ultimate enemy. How it was covering up the memories of his friends who had since passed. And how it was costing taxpayers millions of unnecessary dollars every year. He also gave a quick brief about the mural moratorium and how he and his fellow artists aren’t even allowed to paint elaborate pieces on walls if they have permission to do so in an attempt to dismay taggers. Although, he does have quite the eye for spotting various scripts in even the most discrete locations, which he still has a fondness for.
At one very graphic moment he discussed a wall he had painted near the Glendale exit, which he had to climb over a spiked fence to get to. Unfortunately, as he was climbing back over, his shoulder dislocated and he found himself impaled by one of the poles. Without anyone there to help him, he pulled himself off of the spike and walked back to his car while blood and white stuff oozed out of his wound. Somehow he made it back home and fell asleep for a couple hours before venturing to a hospital, where he said I believe it took him over 7 hours to get help.
When we finally reached downtown, our first stop was at a collaborative mural by El Mac and Retna. By happenstance the photographer Estevan Oriol happened to roll by us all in his pickup truck and stopped to hang out with the crowd for a bit, which was quite fitting seeing as how he was the one who had taken the photograph of the homeless man that El Mac based his painting on. Who, even more coincidentally, Estevan managed to find for all of us to meet just as we were about to take off. In a generous offer, SABER brought the man some bottles of water from the bus, since he was still homeless and obviously in a dire condition.
The tour’s other major stops included the big wall in Little Tokyo that Dabs Myla and How & Nosm had painted as well as a stop to the exterior of Al’s Bar. The spot was at one time a major hip-hop and graffiti hotspot, but was now occupied by a yoga studio and other businesses. As we headed back to the hotel to be dropped off, SABER told us about how he would tell young artists not to cover up “normal” murals by artists like Kent Twitchell. It was interesting to hear him say that because at the end of the day he had a point, they were both in the same boat as long as the mural moratorium exists. Especially now when street art, or graffiti, or whatever you want to call it, has the opportunity to be taken seriously and not disregarded as vandalism.