Best Street Artist


Oakland is brimming with talented street artists, but only one of them has drawn comparisons to Michelangelo — the highly prolific, fiercely anonymous GATS (Graffiti Against The System). His trademark image — a tribal mask that looks both mythical and modern — is plastered all over the East Bay. It can appear friendly or foreboding, with eyes that seem to watch over the streets like those of a small god's. In a video produced by i am OTHER, UC Berkeley new media professor Greg Niemeyer compared GATS to Michelangelo for being "a foundational artist who teaches us about seeing the world in a different way." GATS is also featured in the video — with a blurred face and altered voice to ensure anonymity — in which he explains that the mask is meant to be "a fuck-you to authority figures" and a symbol of freedom of speech. One of GATS' most famous works — which reads "Welcome to West Oakland" next to a mask that features a blue, tentacle-like beard — appears on an abandoned storefront at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 25th Street.

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