Bay Area’s own GATS (Graffiti Against the System), an anonymous street artist, recently had his solo show Drifting Forest at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco. For almost an entire month, GATS had a solo exhibition featuring bunch of paintings and mixed media, for which the show was also to raise funds for #PrisonersLiteratureProject.

Usually painting all over the Bay Area, GATS has been labeled a graffiti legend in this location; however, the artworks can also be seen worldwide in places like Palestine, Rome, and the Philippines. The artist has a very recognizable style, usually involving an intricate design on a mask, using that as symbolism.

Via Hashimoto Contemporary’s website, “the artist’s symbology (sic) cultivates from his own personal reflections of society and ideas of duality, both as an anonymous graffiti artist and everyday city-inhabitant. The cryptic names and symbols that adorn his enigmatic character morph over time in reaction to the events that influence and shape the local community.”

The show had a wide reach, even featured in Juxtapoz magazine and East Bay Express:

Why mainly a mask? In his East Bay Express interview, he revealed a back story:

“I began painting the mask when I was in the Middle East. I encountered so many cultures and languages. I quickly learned that, for many people, the language you chose to write in was a declaration of your political allegiance. You were choosing which culture you wanted to speak to. Painting the mask, for me, was signing a petition for coexistence. Instead of addressing a single group, I chose the most recognizable symbol in the world: The human face. It is the first thing you see when you come into the world. It’s a fresh start with no learned prejudices.

“I could write an entire book about the mask and how it has evolved over time. What it really is, though, is a narrative of my life, adventures, and cultural exchanges [that] I’ve made painting [in] ten countries over the past seven years or so. If I was really going to sum it up, I’d say it’s about duality and the struggle between the realities placed upon us and the world we would like to live in.”

Drifting Forest by GATS is his debut solo exhibition, with the name coming from the artist’s choice of doing most of the featured art on pieces of driftwood that he found locally. In an interview, he said: “‘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.”

Previously, it was advertised the proceeds from the show will go to an unspecified, “relevant not-for-profit causes” but GATS has revealed on his Tumblr site that it is for the Prisoners Literature Project. Here are some of the images from the gallery:







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From the artist:

“Drifting Forest” successfully raised enough funds to buy books for over 1,000 prisoners. Thank you to Hashimoto Contemporary for matching my donation, everyone who came out to support and all my friends who helped me stay sane and fed while working all year on this show. If you’d like to further donate, check out”

Visit the artist’s website for more gorgeous street art and other projects. Images used are from Hashimoto Contemporary, as well as the artist’s Instagram account. Some of the artworks are available for purchase as well, most of which have already been sold out.

Thanks for reading!