A few weeks ago we published our first article in a series on the graffiti and street art scene in Israel. Today we are interviewing one of Tel Aviv’s most popular street deviants, AME72, who is well known for his loveable little Lego character that seems to pop up everywhere around Tel Aviv.
We’ll take a look at how long he’s been doing it, why, where and what he’s working on at the moment.
How did you get into graffiti art?
I got into graff after watching the film, Beat Street way back in 1985!
How long have you been a graffiti artist for?
I’ve been doing graffiti since I was 11-years-old, which means I’ve been doing it for about 22 years now and counting! My first attempt was done when I was four-years-old and I had done my ‘art’ all over my parent’s wall. My background is actually in graphic design, but this has nothing to do with my graffiti background, I’ve always kept them separate. Very quickly I moved from tags to bombings to stencils and pieces, and designed my first real piece way back in 1985.
What are your tools of the trade?
I use spray paint and stencils
Why did you decide to leave that world and become a graffiti artist; and was it an easy transition?
It wasn’t really that difficult because I was just doing something I always wanted to do with the freedom to do it and without restriction. If you believe in yourself then others will too.
Why do you do it?
I do what I do because it’s fun. If anything I do makes people think or just smile then it was all worth it.
The Lego character is everywhere! What is the meaning behind him?
The little Lego represents that childlike innocence and joy, the kid who never grew up and got away with mischief. It’s all about the message; I try to put meaning behind everything I do.
AME72 putting up a piece in Tel Aviv:
Do you have a favorite piece?
At the moment, one I did on Bograshav Street on the side of a cake store.
The colors work really well and the lines are tight – one of my favorites at the moment, but next month’s production will be far better.
What’s happening next month?
I’m opening up an exhibition called “Battle of Noth-thing“, which is a collaboration between myself and street artist, KLONE. I’m really looking forward to this. We created something quite special that we’re both very proud of; people should expect to see some ‘big’ surprises.
What does the name “Battle of Noth-thing” mean?
People go to war every day. Not just wars between countries but war on the streets between different artists.
To an outsider this may seem like a bizarre and strange thing, why would street artists go to war?
Street art is a world-wide movement which is growing bigger and faster than any other art form on the planet. This in itself is the root cause of conflict between the artists, as every artist wants to showcase his or her work on the street, which means finding an empty space.
With so many artists, street space is taken up quickly and some artists start to paint over other artists’ work. Here’s where the street art war begins.
It is an unwritten rule in the scene that one artist does not go over another artist without their consent; therefore, many artists take it extremely personally when another artist paints over their work.
This causes a knock-on effect, as the artist who has had their work erased by another, will then go out and destroy the perpetrators work. This results in nothing more than lots of street pieces being wiped out from around the city.
There is no financial gain in a street art war, no territories are won or lost, people don’t die, and no rockets are fired.
It’s a battle of respect between the ones who creep around at night adding colour and humor to dull grey walls, but to those outside the scene it may well seem like a ‘battle of nothing’.
Has anyone every painted over something you’ve made?
It has happened, but very rarely. Usually by kids who don’t know what they are doing. But there are some rules that graffiti writers go by to show as signs of respect.
When is the “Battle of Noth-thing” exhibition?
Opening night for the exhibition is on Thursday, October 18th from 8pm to 1am at the Casco Urban Lab, Florentine Street 3A, Tel Aviv. There will be limited edition artwork for sale available at Casco.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on the “High Authority” exhibition event between myself and several other artists, curated by Hadas Kedar.
This event will be held at Lillenblum 41, Tel Aviv. Opening night will be on Thursday 4th of October from 8-12pm; opening days will be Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6pm-10pm, and will run for 3 weeks. There will also be limited edition screen prints that will only available on the opening night.
Where have you seen the best graffiti, here or overseas…?
The best graffiti I’ve seen so far has been in East Harlem, New York and Sydney, Australia.
In which areas of Tel Aviv can we find your work?
Pretty much anything council or derelict is fair game, including public transport. You can find my work all over Tel Aviv, particularly on Bograshav and Pinsker Street, as well as opposite the Dolphinarium and Jaffa.
There’s a security fence in Jerusalem – you can find a lot of my work on the Abu Dis side.
Everyone’s mad for graffiti over here, even the people who have to clean them off the walls. One time, I saw a man cleaning a postal box which was covered in graffiti and tags and had one of my Lego characters on it too. He painted over everyone’s work except for mine! People seem to love that little guy and some have even asked me to paint those characters on their houses too!
Is your work just in Israel or other areas of the world too?
I traveled around a bit in the 90s and made my mark in the UK, New York, Australia, Thailand, Spain and Switzerland.
How big is the street art and graffiti scene here in Israel?
The scene is small here; it’s about 20 years behind rest of the world but catching up fast.
What do you hope to be the future of graffiti and street art in Israel?
Something better than it is now, it has a few years of catching up to do.
What advice can you give to people who want to get into graffiti and street art?
Graffiti and street art are two different movements. Any wannabe graffiti artist needs to know where it came from and learn the unwritten rules. Start by watching the film ‘Style Wars’ by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, it is a must-see for anyone unfamiliar with the ‘graff scene’. If you are going to be a street artist then put an underlying meaning behind what you do. It doesn’t matter if others don’t understand it as each person will interpret your work differently.
Click here to visit Ame72’s gallery
- What? High Authority is an exhibition displaying and selling the works of AME72 and other artists. Limited edition screen prints will only be available on the opening night
- Where? 41 Lillenblum Street, Tel Aviv
– When? Opening night – Thursday 4th of October from 8-12pm
Opening days will be Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6pm- 10pm
- Duration? 3 weeks
- Where? Casco Urban Lab, Florentine Street 3A, Tel Aviv
– When? Opening night is on Thursday, October 18th from 8pm to 1am
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