A floating face resembling an African mask with an endless stare, tattooed nose and dreadlocked beard sits above the city of Oakland, California. It is a powerful symbol that is intended to represent the people because with a mask it is easier to speak out against systems of violence and exploitation without fear of persecution. Next to it in a slick hand style reads ‘GATS’ which is an acronym that stands for ‘Graffit Against The System’ and one of the few identifying features of the artist’s work. The mask appears all over the world: Brooklyn, the Philippines, Tel-Aviv and Palestine, Italy, Boulder, Colorado and in nearly every corner of the Bay Area. For those who live in the Bay it is not uncommon to wake up in the morning and find that one of these masks has appeared somewhere in your neighborhood or along your daily commute. In other words, GATS is a prolific artist in the streets and his work has become widely recognized. Just last year he was featured in a sold out two-person exhibit with San Francisco-based painter Jessica Hess and it was only a matter of time before he would be showcasing his work in a show of his own.
The GATS “Drifting Forest” exhibit is going to be his solo debut in a gallery setting and will take place at Hashimoto Contemporary (804 Sutter Street, San Francisco) from May 9th through the 30th. The name “Drifting Forest” comes from the choice to do most of the featured art on pieces of driftwood that he found locally. The gallery released a statement about the show that reads:
“With a practice primarily rooted in concrete and man-made structures, GATS’ new body of work examine’s the dichotomy between nature and the urban space through the eyes of a graffiti writer. The show is comprised of paintings and wood-burnings applied to various reclaimed panels constructed out of drift wood and other found materials GATS found in the San Francisco Bay.
In the artist’s own words, “‘Drifting Forest’ is my longing to have a relationship with nature, only to watch the forest drift farther and farther away. I attempt to grow food in containers on top of concrete I don’t own and the only native trees I see float in from the ocean disregarded as trash. These skeletons of the forest are sacred as I morn in the graveyard that is urban sprawl.”
For those who interested in attending the opening reception, it will run from 6pm – 10 pm on Saturday, May 9th and the first 150 people will get a free limited edition GATS button that is hand-pressed by the man himself. They will only be available at the exhibit’s opening. Additionally a portion of the proceeds from the show will go to unspecified “relevant not-for-profit causes” and you can follow GATS on Instagram for more information. Also be sure to flip through the gallery above for a look at some of his art and if you happen to be in San Francisco check out the show and let us know what you think in the comments.