Saber’s World Famous LA River piece buffed


What you are looking at above is a piece by Los Angeles graffiti artist Saber. But it’s not just any piece, it’s a massive an insanely famous piece. In fact, it holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for being the largest “wild style” piece in the world. Painted in 1997, it took 35 nights and over 125 gallons of latex paint to create. It’s visible on Google Maps and in the world of well know graffiti pieces this is always one of the first mentioned. And now it’s gone.

The piece used to be located on a stretch of the LA Rive in the southeast corner of downtown, arguably a boring, plain, even ugly and run down part of the city. The piece was almost impossible to see without actually climbing into the river bed (I know, I went there specifically to see it a few years ago) and was like a bright, colorful hidden treasure in a bleak and gray part of town. And suddenly for unexplained reasons someone in the city felt it was a justifiable expense (in this economy!) to pay city workers to destroy it. As shocking as this is, it’s not the first time world renowned public works of art in LA have been destroyed with no explanation. You see, this is why we can’t have anything nice.

25 thoughts on “Saber’s World Famous LA River piece buffed”

  1. “a boring, plain, even ugly and run down part of the city.”
    “in a bleak and gray part of town.”

    If they had decided to do this piece on the other bank, then you’d be talking about the place where I grew up, that complex being just about 5 blocks away. I know that river area well. Yeah, the piece was technically in downtown but still, thanks for the insults. I wouldn’t expect you to be able to see the beauty in these sort of neighborhoods, but why the diss? Poverty seems to be another language to people.

    That ugliness comes from the fact they built a freeway over us. That run down look comes from years of city neglect. Not something I’d expect you to understand since you’ve never lived on the Eastside, but ease up on painting these nether regions with such a broad brush of disdain.

  2. Message to El Chavo….

    not sure you know exactly where the river piece was, completely surrounded by an Amtrak train lay up, meat processing plants, parking lots for city vehicles, faceless factories, and our beautiful concrete filled river. I realize there are people living in the area, but the only people I ever met in the immediate area surrounding the piece were homeless people. There are no neighborhoods/homes in eyesight from that area of the river.

    Please try not to be quite so sensitive and jump the gun in your assumptions. And just so you know, I do live on the eastside, as does the artist I believe.

  3. Yeah, I know exactly where it is. It’s right near Soto and 8th. I lived in a home in the area. Just cuz you can’t see us doesn’t mean we don’t exist. Ever heard of Wyvernwood?

    You live on the Eastside? Hahaha! I fucking doubt it.

  4. Oh come on man, you know I know the neighborhoods you are talking about and I know you know the section of the river I’m talking about. Empty factories, concrete riverbed, and “years of city neglect” have made that everything I said it was. I’m not talking about the neighborhoods near by, I’m not talking about *anything* nearby, I’m talking about that specific chuck of the city that is riverwater and plain concrete that was a source of pride for at least a few people because of that piece and now it’s been painted over – making the area any better? not in my eyes.

  5. Damn that’s sux….everytime id see this on tv or in magazines it was something that I would just be in aw….and now its gone…never got to see it in real life…..what a fucking shame fucking city officials….

  6. Maybe if people took a walk, not a bike ride or a car drive, but walked around these neighborhoods they would know that it’s more than just homeless people around.

    This is why in general I don’t like this kind of graffiti done by people who aren’t from the neighborhood, because the people who do it have no respect for the neighborhood. And there is nothing artful about this scribbling, just his damn name like a label. The person who wrote it probably thought he was doing the neighborhood a service, because it was no one there anyway or no one he could see. Why didn’t he do this in Glendale, that’s where he’s from, no he couldn’t do it there, but he comes out to the side of town he thinks doesn’t matter so that he can get famous.

    If a kid down the block had done this piece he would be in jail right now and his parents would have to pay for the clean up costs. It’s just two different laws for two sets up people and it’s just bs.

    And again people need to do this in the place where their parents live. To me if your parents or grandma don’t live in a neighborhood you aren’t going to have the kind of respect needed to do a respectful piece. Without that tie to the community you’re just being an egomaniac, this is just an ego driven piece. I bet he painted over a bunch of other peoples works when he did this too, so maybe this was just karma, if karma worked in an american western movie way.


  7. Browne, your ability to make shit up to defend never ceases to amaze me. Luckily there are “actual facts” that exist to rule out all your wild theories. Since you can see this piece on Google Maps Satellite view you can see exactly what is around and it what isn’t. Likewise if you’ve been there on foot or on bike, as I have, you know it isn’t a neighborhood. It’s a riverbed surrounded by train yards and then parkinglots and factories. Neighborhoods don’t start for several blocks so yes, the only people living there are homeless.

    Likewise since there is extensive photo documentation of the piece being done you can plainly see that there was no work before he got there, so he didn’t cover anything to put it up. And in the following 12 years that it stood there the only other work that got put up were a few tags around it that people put there hoping if someone went to see SABER’s piece they would see theirs too – it isn’t a graffiti mecca by any means largely because unless you are in the river or on a passing train its next to impossible to see.

    Finally since SABER has been arrested several times for painting in the city, and his work can been seen in all corners of it, your theory about him only doing work in other people’s neighborhoods and if he wasn’t white he’d be in jail are also bunk.

    Want to make up anything else that actual facts can negate?

  8. I made what up? I gave an opinion. I can give an opinion if you don’t know the difference between a fact and an opinion that’s not my problem.

    What fact did I say? I said he probably painted over some other person’s work (and when did you become a graffiti expert,) that might be true. Since you think its not anywhere near anything then the people who might have been painted over doesn’t exist to you, so since you can’t see people who might live within 1/2 mile of where this great piece of “art” is or rather was, then how can you give your opinion…

    Oh you have google and google satellites, maybe Wikipedia can help you with more facts.

    El Chavo said there are people there, when I walk I see people. I take various trips across the city on foot and lots of places that aren’t neighborhoods to you but in my opinion are neighborhoods, now you have your opinion based on people putting things into the internet and I have my opinion based on me actually walking around and history books so if I guess since you have the bigger forum your opinion is fact and my opinion is wrong. I’m ok with that perspective as I am sure you are ok with your perspective.

    Just a question do you find the LA River by Bettie Davis park a neighborhood or a wasteland…just wondering, because within about five blocks in some sections there aren’t houses if that’s not a neighborhood to you then I stand corrected, but if it is then maybe you’re wrong, that might possible.

    And by the way you’re the one who is a liar by implying that I’m a liar. I have never said any fact that I couldn’t prove.


  9. Every graffiti artist understands that their work is transitory.

    In my humble opinion, this piece of graffiti was ugly. Sure, the LA river bed is not that great looking by itself in this area, but this piece, with it’s garish angles and colors, completely sullied it.

    Graffiti, tags, murals are fine. But please don’t decide to put them up in the public spaces in my city. In our city. Don’t assume that the majority of people will appreciate it. They don’t. It’s a dated aesthetic, and the inevitable clean-up is a huge waste of tax payer dollars.

  10. Brown, Thank you. I live a block away from Bette Davis park. Sometimes I take a stroll along the river to look at the fish, ducks, heron and egrets. The trees are overgrowing the sides and a friendly face walks or bicycles by every few minutes. I love it.

  11. Graffiti comes and goes. It was a mouth dropping piece but everyone should have seen it coming eventually. The part that blows my mind is the simple fact that they could have used that money for something far more worth while. Instead they chose to pay plenty of money to make a giant white box on the LA river. Such a brilliant idea.

  12. Yes, I live on the eastside, and I can’t say it matters to me either way if someone doesn’t believe me, doesn’t change my address.

    I still don’t understand the difficulty in the concept of “immediate area”. Standing near the piece, I can’t see Soto and 8th, can you?

    I don’t think the artist of the work in question, or the writer of this blog meant any disrespect to anyone who lives in the area. During the course of painting the piece the artist met and struck up many relationships with the residents of that “immediate area”, the homeless. (Which by the way El Chavo and Browne, are people too!) Given encouragement by the only people in eyesight, the residents of that section of the river, it took him over a year to paint this.

    If this subjective work of art was so detrimental your neighborhood, and you had the front row to watching it be created (because your soooo OG and lived on the eastside your whole life) why didn’t you speak up earlier.

    And I don’t quite know what to say about the “only paint where your Grandma lives” comment. Are you serious? What exactly do you think someone like Diego Rivera would think about that. Art is not very important to you is it?

    Just to let everyone out there know. Whether you realize it or not, Saber is a hero to scores of disaffected young people. Being completely surrounded by advertising, having school districts all over the country squash their art/music/creative programs, and being forced into the reality that they have no voice, can you blame them?

    Fortunately Saber turns out to be a positive role model. He believes education is one of the most important things in a persons life, not just through their primary and secondary years, but is something that should continue throughout their lives. He also believes in honor and respect in all areas. Respect of your elders, respect for your peers, respect for the world at large, as a global community.

    I realize art is subjective, I respect the fact that you do not like it. But, I find it amusing that something given with someones whole heart to the City of Angels seems to bother someone more than the obnoxious ads corporations shove in our faces because the want us to pony up our dough.

    How many billboards are there in LA? Hmmmmmm

  13. suddenly for unexplained reasons someone in the city felt it was a justifiable expense (in this economy!) to pay city workers to destroy it.

    Actually, someone in US Army Corps of Engineers decided it was a good way to spend funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – federal stimulus money – to hire a private contractor, BJD Resourcing, a small business in San Fernando, to fulfill a year-long contract that employs four full-time crews, including eight newly-created jobs.

    Read more about it (including pics of the crews painting over the “SABER” tag) at the Army Corps’ web site:

    ARRA Grafitti Abatement Work Begins

    Please note that I’m not defending the Corps’ decison or taking any position on the “Grafitti – art or blight?” question. I have no connection to any of the parties involved.

    I just wanted to note that it’s not city workers being paid to do this, and it’s precisely because of the current economy that this is being done now – to create employment and jobs as part of the effort to stimulate the economy.

  14. Finally an intelligent response. But I would like to pose one question to you LA MapNerd: Giving eight people a job is good, especially in this economy.

    But…… which do you think will bring MORE MONEY into that area of LA? The salaries of those 8 BJD employees, or the tourism money brought to our city by people who have come to Los Angeles from all over the world let alone the country, for the specific reason of seeing the famous work of art in person. (gas stations, restaurants, mini malls, corner markets, motel/hotels, car rental companies, I can go on if you don’t get the gist)

    Wouldn’t it have been a better use of funds to pay the artist and leave the work there to bring a stream of tourists dollars into our city? Instead of paying a company to paint over something that brings lots of $ to LA? Especially since everyone knows, once painted out, it will be vandalized again and again.

  15. I repeat: “Please note that I’m not defending the Corps’ decision.”

    Certainly, if you think this was a bad idea, almost anything you think would be a good idea will strike you as a better use of funds.

    I’m not claiming this is a good idea.

    Or that it’s a bad idea.

    I take no position whatsoever, either way. I’m not interested in participating in that particular argument.

    I’m just pointing out that, contary to the assertions in the initial post, it wasn’t city workers, the decision wasn’t made by anyone in city government, and it’s money that’s being spent because of the hard economic times, not in spite of them.

  16. LA MAPNERD: I respect your right to have no position, I’m sorry if you got the impression I felt otherwise, and thank you for the facts. Although I am still curious what your answer to my question would be, I won’t push you on it.

    So it would appear that we have the federal government to thank for the damage to LA tourism.

    I remember when I was growing up, I was proud that we were known as the mural capital of the country. Back then we still had art classes and clubs in public school, we were taught to respect and appreciate art in all it’s many forms of expression, we had a chance to create and be expressive ourselves. We also had a city that was willing to except everyone’s free speech through visual expressions, not just corporations with large bank accounts and the sole purpose of advertising.

    Not to mention, with the economy at it’s present state, we need to look outside the box on ways to bring money to our city. Whether Los Angeles realizes it or not, they missed the boat on this one. All I can do is hope with the attention painting over that piece has brought, they take advantage of the opportunity and start involving a broader range of local artists in the “fixing up” of this city with our federal money.

  17. Interesting they chose to buff this piece and not MTA… who’s gonna pay for the eventual MTA buff? And clearly it’s a waste of money. Because it’s just gonna get hit again and again and again… kids are gonna go out and paint on saber’s buff lol

    yes there are neighborhoods there but not really close enough to be affected by this paint on concrete. i’d be more offended by the industrial smoke and toxins all the companies spew into your neighborhood than a river piece. you are offended by a painting? and not by businesses polluting your area? people trashing your area? because remember the numbers: We spend WAY more money cleaning up litter than graffiti. and that’s a fact. look it up.

    be more concerned about actual city neglect and the crimes committed by companies the hazardous living conditions for the homeless the LITTER i mean the place is straight up filthy.

    You ever see the other side the piece? a big wall crushed with bombs and toys people living in shanties trash all over the place.

    if OBAMA’s money (that’s right kids, stimulus.) being used to buff saber is the answer to the economy, i’d beg to differ. the Corps should have asked for money to CLEAN UP THE TRASH. not PAINT. wouldnt that money go further in the long run? cleaning up all the litter? not sand blasting the hell out of it and ignoring the trash on the ground. your quality of life didnt go up or down, it just stayed the same.

  18. This whole argument is packed with weak claims and straw men (on all sides). I am certainly not buying any argument that Saber’s piece was somehow generating either tourist dollars or tax revenues (give me some numbers, or even a plausible anecdote). It’s graffiti, it’s gonna get buffed sooner or later – it’s not for the ages.

    IMHO, at this point, 90% of non-gang related graffiti is just state subsidized (it’s my tax dollars that are paying for the cleanup that you’ve necessitated) advertising for graphic designers looking to launch their ego driven brand so they can sell T-shirts, vinyl toys and prints later. The minute I sat down to dinner with a well known LA poster artist and his girlfriend presented me with a copy of his business plan, my sympathy went out the window.

  19. Would you have to be caught in the act to be prosecuted for doing a piece in the la river bed? How is meeting of styles getting permitted? The dudes from MTA got jailed for doing the same thing in the same place. Talk about double standards. This piece got world wide notoriety. And, certain members in the community decided to show the world that even the la river is not prone to being buffed. So, don’t waste your time and try to outdo what has already been done. I think their reasoning was to squash the allure and glamour of being allowed to do huge layups in the river. Bottom line, any activity in the river potentially pollutes the water. And hopfully, detours people from getting hurt, killed, or arrested. I love grafitti. However, it still just a name posted up on a wall. It done for fame. Mission accomplished.

  20. who cares where it was.. that shit was ugggly. Im so tired of hearing graf artists cry about their shit getting painted over. If you don’t like it, don’t paint on other peoples shit. And fuck all the hipster trash talking down on the city workers for doing their job. Grafitti is narcissistic bullshit. Stop stroking it’s dick.

  21. How is painting over this piece not a waste of money?

    By painting over one of the few graffiti pieces that actually kinda matters, they are just wasting tax dollars. Some kids are gonna go out there and paint on the white spot so it will have to get buffed again AKA more tax money. Atleast clean up something that matters like trash.

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