New rogue graffiti artist on campus

Christopher Hewitt/Staff

It seems that UC Berkeley is poised to become the next great graffiti art scene. Reports have been coming in about a rogue graffiti artist on campus. They’ve been tagging bathrooms all over, and in styles not formerly seen here at UC Berkeley. Here, students are used to seeing mostly text graffiti, especially in men’s restrooms — where, for some reason, the act of defecation also results in defamation — but the unknown new artist on the scene has a style all their own. Rather than working in the traditional crude medium of petty profanity and vulgar slurs, the new unknown has dropped a fresh new palette on the UC Berkeley bathroom scene.

We have reports of a variety of new styles. For example, in one restroom there are murals done to appear much like space invaders, using many colored square tiles. In others, there are spray-painted murals, many of them done in quite meta (albeit overly wordy) arrangement. A prime example was an expansive piece seen last week, just painted over, in the Free Speech Movement Cafe restroom of a huge spray-painted portrait of Mario Savio standing atop the toilet, shouting.

Elsewhere, there are satirical paintings of Chancellor Nicholas Dirk’s face done up in ways that are simply unfit for description here on this safe-for-work website, as well as vivid Salvador Dali-esque surrealist depictions of Berkeley squirrels.

Through this wide array of strangeness, there seems to be a mural linking them all: a giant cartoon print of UC Berkeley’s mascot, Oski. Due to the prevalence of the Oski image, some leading critics and graffiti nuts have begun to question whether UC Berkeley’s beloved man-bear mascot may be responsible for the bathroom art. Those who do believe that Oski is the culprit have begun calling him Osky (with a y instead), linking him to the infamous Banksy of the New York scene.

Whoever this new rogue may be, they’re undoubtedly making big waves across the UC Berkeley campus, both in the bathrooms and in the classrooms. As of the writing of this article, a Bathroom Graffiti Snapstory is active online, and we’ve heard that no fewer than three art practice professors on campus are considering including this “Osky” in their syllabus for next semester.

Meanwhile, word is beginning to make its way around the bay. Eclectic hipster art circles have been tracking the walls of UC Berkeley bathrooms around the clock, eagerly anticipating the next not-so-great-not-so-spectacular “masterwork,” each group eager to pen their reviews of Osky’s work before it becomes “mainstream.” Post-Banksy, the demand for artsy graffiti among rich, gentrifying youngsters — most notably the multitudes of Silicon Valley bros occupying San Francisco — is through the roof. Scores of these pretentious, desperate-to-be-hip snobs are offering enormous sums for anything that looks even remotely Osky.

As the prevalence of pieces increases, there are now more than 100 identified murals, critics are starting to say that there may be copycats (or, some would say, copy-bears) on the loose. Others are saying that there never was a real Osky. We at the Clog don’t know for sure. But we’re starting to think that the Osky madness has gone too far. Missing bathroom wall segments have been popping up on eBay. Whole toilet stalls have been stolen in their entirety. We’ve even heard that BAMPFA has been breaking into bathrooms at night, searching in vain for new prominent murals.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Contact Chris Hewitt at [email protected].