Sabo, California street artist, goes to war against liberals
His might not be a household name, but conservative street artist Sabo has become a recognizable figure at the intersection of art and politics with his stealthy installation of attention-grabbing posters that have lampooned Hillary Clinton, Hollywood, pro-choice activists and other left-wing idols.
“No one else was doing it, at least not on a brutal level,” the former Marine said of his guerrilla art tactics and hard-right bent. “I’ve got a potty mouth. I’ll say anything.”
The word “brutal” almost sugarcoats descriptions of his often inflammatory, sometimes unauthorized and always provocative output:
In an homage to the Oscar-nominated film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” he commandeered three billboards in Hollywood before the Academy Awards ceremony in February to ridicule the film industry’s hypocrisy in its ongoing sex abuse scandal.
“We all knew and still no arrests,” “And the Oscar for biggest pedophile goes to” and “Name names on stage or shut the hell up!” the billboards screamed in all capital letters.
In December, he challenged Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep’s assertions that she was unaware of the long-standing rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct about producer Harvey Weinstein. Sabo put up posters of a black-and-white photo of Mr. Weinstein embracing Miss Streep, with a red banner across her eyes that read in all capital letters, “She knew.”
At the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the artist placed posters around the city depicting a nearly nude, heavily tattooed “Hillary Rotten Clinton” below the words in all capital letters “First female POTUS” and “Above the law out of touch.”
Of course, his work has incurred the scorn of the political left, and social media networks have not been kind. Facebook has removed Sabo’s business fan page, and he has been booted off Twitter for violating its rules of conduct.
His art installations routinely go viral all the same. His slick, arresting posters usually are taken down hours after he surreptitiously installs them, but they live on via social media.
For Sabo, that means massive media response to his artistic attacks on Hollywood, Democrats and hypocrites alike.
But he also rallies to the side of dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Witness his 2016 poster image of a shirtless, tattooed and muscular Sen. Ted Cruz, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips and the words in all capital letters ”‘Blacklisted loving it’ all American tour” above his head. The poster gave the Texas Republican some unlikely street cred, so much so that Team Cruz shared the image on the senator’s official Twitter account.
Still, the Cruz campaign distanced itself from Sabo after the artist was accused of racism.
Sabo (pronounced “SAY-bo”) is of mixed race and calls himself brown. On his website UnsavoryAgents.com, he wrote that he “always hated” the N-word and recalled racist behavior he witnessed growing up in Texas and Louisiana.
Yet “as an artist I reserve the right to use whatever word I feel is appropriate to the project,” he wrote.
The 50-year-old artist said he derived his name from his days as a U.S. Marine: A sabot is a short tank round. His conservative crusade came from a simple life lesson.
“I hated freelancing, working for clients,” said Sabo, now based in Los Angeles.
His career started in a surprisingly conventional fashion. He studied at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design, where he learned to take his vision “from concept to completion,” he said. “You become technically proficient.”
He found gigs with ad agencies and startup businesses, but he longed to speak to the current political climate.
“One day after my father died, I just didn’t have it in me to work for anyone else. I decided to turn my skills toward creating political art,” he said.
Making a living as an artist wasn’t as easy as making a mission statement.
“I’m going to be broke,” he figured.
He was right. These days, he is finding ways to monetize his art, but he is wary of describing the details lest his ideological foes fire back at him.
His critics are legion, and it has little to do with his artistic prowess. The Young Turks, a progressive YouTube group, called Sabo “racist” for tweets using the N-word.
He posted a video of Secret Service agents interrogating him about some of his more outrageous tweets, including one about Lee Harvey Oswald returning as a zombie while President Obama occupied the White House.
The host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” fired back at a Sabo installation by flipping him the bird and sharing it on Twitter. The artist used his talents to mock the host’s car accident, dubbing him an “idiot comedian.”
Sabo viewed Donald Trump warily during the 2016 Republican primaries. He dubbed him a clown and mocked him in his art. Now, he agrees with nearly everything the unconventional president has on his agenda.
“One’s not supposed to love their politicians,” he said, noting how progressives adored Mr. Obama. “We’re supposed to keep their feet to the fire, keep ’em honest. It frightens me to think, ‘Man, I love Trump.’”
Sabo’s support for Mr. Trump comes from a different angle than his famous Cruz poster.
″[Mr. Cruz] may need me. He needs some fangs to put in his teeth. Trump already has the fangs,” he said.