The guerrilla street artist stumping for Larry Elder
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The guerrilla street artist stumping for Larry Elder
A poster Sabo created in support of Larry Elder’s campaign for governor. Photo: Sabo.

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Every now and again over the past couple of decades, the right-wing street artist Sabo has popped up, aggravating Los Angeles liberals.

Westside residents may recall the billboard for the movie “Parasite” that he altered to depict 2020 Democratic presidential contenders under the movie title. Or Meryl Streep denying his accusation that “she knew” about Hollywood sexual harassment, plastered on posters around town during the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Over the years, Sabo’s Facebook page has been taken down, his Twitter account has been blocked and his Instagram feed has been disabled. Even Sen. Ted Cruz, the hard-line Texas conservative whom Sabo supported during the 2016 presidential primaries, distanced himself after The Texas Tribune put a spotlight on the artist’s inflammatory social media posts.

A dropout from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, Sabo has made a name as a sort of Shepard Fairey of the right since the mid-2000s. His headquarters until the pandemic was an apartment in the West Los Angeles neighborhood of Palms.

Lately, Sabo said, he and his wife have been living with relatives in Colorado, where he continues to operate an online gallery, Unsavoryagents. But he still deploys his political art in California to further conservative causes. His most recent: the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and replace him with talk radio host Larry Elder, the front-running Republican challenger.

I caught up with Sabo, 53, by phone to discuss his advocacy around the coming election. Californians have until Sept. 14 to return the recall ballots that have been sent out to the 22 million active registered voters across the state. Here’s some of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why have you left California?

A: If I wasn’t married, I’d still be in LA. But it got to the point where I couldn’t leave my apartment without worrying if someone was going to crawl in through the window. It’s kind of on hold, but I seriously doubt I’ll move back. The only redeeming quality it had was it was cheap.

Q: How did you end up campaigning for Larry Elder?

A: I’ve listened to Larry Elder for decades. There was a time in the mid-1990s when I listened to talk radio from the moment I woke up to the minute I went to sleep. Most people would come to a point where they were entertaining but not intellectually honest. I didn’t agree with everything Larry said, but I appreciated his consistency.

Anyway, one day two or three years ago I was at an event and someone said, “Larry Elder’s over there, let’s go say hi.” And he was like, “Wow, you’re Sabo — you’re a fixture in LA.” Then I saw him again, in a similar situation. Just hello and a picture. And I generally don’t like politicians, but I might have said let’s grab lunch.

Q: So you had a business lunch?

A: I just wanted to see what made him tick. It was a couple months before the election in 2020. I was operating on a couple hours of sleep, but he was firing off questions, personal questions about my father, my upbringing, what I do and why I do it. I grew up in Louisiana and Texas. He told me a touching story about his father and I told him a story about my father, who is Mexican, that was very rough.

Q: So how did you end up doing his campaign posters?

A: I give him art to put on his Instagram sometimes. About a week before he announced, he emailed, like, “Hey, man, I’m thinking about running for governor.” I said, “You’re a good man, you’ve got to run.” So right after he announced, I did a poster, but just for myself, not for his campaign. And then some people were doing a fundraiser and they asked me to donate something.

Q: Where can people find your work?

A: I’ve done like three posters of Larry — a green one with poppies that I put up in Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades, one of Larry and Gavin Newsom boxing that I put up around Hollywood and Inglewood, maybe one more. But I’m the fastest censored artist in America when I put up posters in LA. By the time we went to take pictures in the morning, some of those posters were already down.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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