If you happen to be hanging out in Tel Aviv anytime soon, then you, my friend, are a very lucky person. Not only is Tel Aviv one of the coolest cities on the planet, with fantastic food, outrageous nightlife, and a stunning cultural atmosphere, it's also home to some awesome street art. One of our favourite artists, James Ame aka AME72, has certainly made his mark on the city, and this year sees the opening of his largest and most ambitious work to date, The Maze.
The Maze From Above
A year in the making, The Maze is truly awesome in both scale and vision. It's unlike anything the art world has ever seen before. Huge double-sided panels collide to guide the viewer through an explosion of Ame72's creative genius. The Maze integrates many of Ame's characteristic styles and media, including the Lego mini figure, melted plastics, classic wildstyle graffiti and tagging, and introduces other elements such as poetry, sculpture, audio, all fused together to create a mind-blowing, fully interactive experience.
Giant Pop Cube in the centre...if you get there!
At first glance, the luxury Elma Hotel in Tel Aviv may seem an ironic location for a piece with such anti-commercialist sentiment, but the hotel is a leading supporter of the arts, and the concrete walls of its brutalist 1960s architecture make the perfect backdrop for a street artist to exhibit.
The mission statement behind the project reads as follows:
The unacceptable has become acceptable
We live in a society controlled by a group of people who tell us to live in an organised way, make decisions about how to do things, dictate to us what we can and can’t do and let us know what to do next, a society where privacy is non existent and we can’t live without social media, where criminals become celebrities and victims become persecuted, a society that always takes but rarely gives back.
At the end of the day we all just want a happy life but when did we close our eyes and accept this as the norm?
Take back control.
A feast of colour, questions and humour all over the maze
Ame72 (pronounced Aim) is his ‘street’ name, the middle letters of his first name, James, followed by the year he was born. It’s an old skool graffiti thing.
Ame is one of the original crews from the 80s, a time-served graffiti artist, whose style has weaved and developed through a number of iterations over the years, to become what he best describes as ‘Artivism’.
Street work is still a massive part of Ame's mission today
When he was a kid, the family telly died, and his father chose not to replace it, hence, his early childhood was spent playing with LEGO and painting, not watching TV. His recurrent use of the LEGO mini figure 'a little timeless figure that everyone can relate to', has earned him the nickname 'the LEGO guy' and a cult following from LEGO fans of all ages and backgrounds. His work has been featured in the iconic book 'The Cult of Lego' and he was commissioned by the Lego group to create a limited-edition street art LEGO set.
The iconic "Lego Guy"
It was this smiling little Lego guy that first brought Ame72 to the attention of Landmark owner Ben. Ben's a sucker for the little yellow dude, himself being a massive fan as a child...and adult too! "I loved the retro spray painting vibe and instantly knew I had to get hold of Ame's work for my collection and the gallery" Said Ben. Landmark are now one of the few galleries around the world entrusted with the distribution of Ame72's work, and Ben and Ame struck up a solid friendship. In 2017, when Ben visited Banksy's Walled Off Hotel, Ame met Ben in Israel and accompanied him to the hotel in Palestine where they went painting on the separation wall.
Ben says 'I love James' work because it stands the test of time. At heart he's an old school graffiti artist, that was born out of being there at the time. He's one of the originals. He'd never compromise his work for commercialism and I totally respect that integrity. James sees the fun in everything and that comes through in his personality and his work, he's very tongue in cheek, but he's also an incredibly serious and talented artist who really thinks about the message and has a point to get across, in short completely committed to his work.'
Wildstyle Tag put up in Tel Aviv 2018
Ame’s work has featured all over the world, including New York, Mexico, South Africa, Belgium, France, the UK and Australia.
He’s exhibited alongside artists such as Warhol, Hirst, Banksy and even Picasso. In 2016, he was commissioned to transform a wall at the Israeli Facebook headquarters, creating an interactive street art LEGO exhibit.
Ame moved to the Middle East after meeting his wife while backpacking. She didn't like the rain in England so they moved to Israel which he found to be more tolerant and supportive of his art. About the Middle East, he says 'The media sensationalise this place as a war zone which is far from the truth, I suggest people come and experience the reality for themselves.'
Getting the message of "Peace" out there in Palestine
There are plenty of big name controversial artists at work in the area, such as LushSux, famed for a number of political pieces on the wall, including several Donald Trump murals, but in contrast, Ame72 chooses to present positivity, his work displays playful, colourful, fun elements. 'If every time you step outside it’s raining, sometimes you just want to see a bit of sunshine'.
The themes that do appear in his work, of overabundance, commercialism, capitalism and greed, are very much present in The Maze, for example, angry text on one wall reads 'Why are advertisers allowed to lie to us? A world built on fantasy, detached from reality. Psychological warfare pushed in your face. They can't help us. None of it is real. Hypnotising us into believing their bullshit to make our lives complete. Their ideals are impossible to achieve yet are promoted as perfectly normal. The reality is different.'
And finally, the big question – is this man Banksy?
Over the years there have been several 'exposés', claiming that Ame is part of a collective of artists operating as Banksy. These theories escalated following the opening of the Walled Off Hotel in Palestine.
We asked James 'How do you respond when you hear those claims?'
'I can categorically tell you it’s nothing to do with me!'
Original works will be available at MONIKER Art Fair 4-7th October 2018
Landmark Street Art will be exclusively showing Ame72's new canvas originals at Moniker Art Fair in Shoreditch from the 4-7th of October before they go online on their store. Come say hello and see the work in the flesh...those cheeky fellows never disappoint!
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Like Ame72 work? Browse his prints and originals currently on our online store and check in when the Moniker 2018 originals go live after the show