On the opening night of Jessica Hess and GATS’ two person show, fans stood in line outside of Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco with black books in hand. A few people chatted excitedly about GATS, the anonymous Oakland-based artist whose name stands for Graffiti Against the System: “What do you think he looks like? Does he post selfies on Instagram?”
No one could figure out if GATS was at the show, but his work, along with Hess’ lifelike oil paintings, drew enough of a crowd to pack the gallery. At the entrance, eager fans received GATS stickers depicting his well-known mask (which we’re guessing ended up on some lampposts nearby). Inside the show, which is open until May 24, three-dimensional versions of this mask hang on the gallery's walls. They feel creepy and mysterious, with holes for the wearer’s eyes.
In the middle of the room, an area marked off with tarp is also spray-painted with GATS’ signature mask. Hess’ oil paintings show urban scenes of graffiti and street art, complimenting the interspersed GATS imagery. Each of Hess' pieces showcases the way that graffiti transforms city spaces, turning dirty concrete walls into canvases. From a distance, you can hardly tell if her work is a painting or a photograph.
In many ways, the city invades the gallery space. A detour street sign decorated with GATS masks hangs on the wall next to Hess’ canvases. The meeting of fine and urban art feels appropriate; though GATS and Hess work in different mediums, they both highlight the gritty beauty of creating work in the streets.
The artists joined forces for a special print, which many fans took home opening night. In the print, a GATS mask looms large in brown over a composition by Hess that features brightly painted flowers and spray-paint cans.
The two person show will be on display until May 24 at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco.