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Saber's Ugly American

  • The Outsiders London
  • The Outsiders London
January 11, 2014
Ana Bambic Kostov is an art historian with passion for contemporary art.

Experimental art space, The Outsiders London, opened a new exhibition on January 10 by an American aerosol art star, Saber, titled The Ugly American. The show was moved to London by popular demand, after an extraordinary public reception at The Outsiders space in Newcastle. The works by the dashing artist will be on view until February 15.

Graffiti Artist and Painter

Saber’s talent is particularly visible in the way in which his essentially street artistic expression is rendered to suit gallery and fine art spaces. They detain all of the provocative and tense in nature, despite of being scaled down to a studio piece. His grand actions, such as execution of the biggest graffiti piece in the world, blasphemous interpretations on the American flag and socially conscious messages written by airplanes above the US major two cities make this graffiti artist and painter a true activist, oriented toward bettering of social environment, ranging from discriminating healthcare system to the lawful [mis]treatment of public art.

The Outsiders London
The Ugly American Series, Saber

Ugly American

The exhibition presents a series of Saber’s abstract works inspired by the Ugly American title. The fundamental idea for these works came from the famed novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer of 1958, that was later transposed into an iconic movie with the-one-and-only Marlon Brando in a lead role. The Ugly American series should be perceived as a commentary to the widely accepted idea of an American as an individual and within a collective. It is a critical reflection upon the US egotism, superficiality and excessiveness. The Ugly American exhibition is very political in nature, and although it does not represent the graffiti art concretely, it hold the most important ideas and ideals of a true street art activist.

The Outsiders London
The Ugly American Series, Saber

The Gallery Space

Divided among two levels of the gallery space, the works are installed thematically. The ground level represents depictions of the American and British flags painted on suggestive, crate-like wooden backgrounds. The faded statal imagery is covered with aerosol interventions that evoke graffiti and vandal art, often progressing outside of the frame in allusion to the freedom of the arts in opposition the strict official policies of these two major western societies. The lower level of the gallery exhibits abstract pieces with references to the societal decay and hypocrisy, consumerist mainstream supported by the media and brands. Suggestive use of color, chrome and texture carries the message Saber is conveying in a cleverly constructed, deliberately rugged art forms.  

The Outsiders London
The Ugly American Series, Saber

Saber – Background

Saber is a Southern California graffiti artist who drew much attention in 1997 by painting a large 250x50t graffiti on the bank of Los Angeles river. The piece represented his stylized name, and as it was being removed by the army in 2009, he offered to do it himself, but was forbidden to do so. He was also a mind behind the Old Math series of US flags in 2010, which was publicly anathematized, as well as behind the skywriting act that addressed then newly adopted law against murals.

The Outsiders London – Background

The Outsiders London is a partner gallery of The Outsiders Newcastle, as they were both envisioned as the exhibiting spaces for new and emerging artist and experimental showrooms for the acclaimed creatives of the Lazarides Gallery. The Outsiders is also in charge of a small publishing and printing production studio, and they release limited edition prints and books. Both spaces welcome over ten thousand visitors every year.