Yaacov Agam, a pioneer in the field of kinetic art, is considered its greatest living exemplar. From the beginning of Agam`s career, he challenged the way we, as viewers, “look” at art. Painting is no longer a static form, to be hung and contemplated from afar. Agam`s artwork is meant to be touched, moved and manipulated by the viewer. His art exists in its relationship to the viewer.
Agam was born in Israel in 1928, the son of a Rabbi. His father was a deeply devout individual, completely immersed in studies of Jewish mysticism and Kabalah. This intense spiritualism permeated Agam`s world as a child, and resonating in his work today.
Agam has said of growing up in the deserts of Israel: “My first ‘canvas` was the moving sand of the dunes. The image I drew on the sand was instantly transformed into another shape by the blowing wind. The image appeared, then disappeared, within seconds.” It is here that we see Agam`s fascination with kinetics taking form.
Agam studied art at the famed Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, and went on to Europe in 1950, after graduation. During this time he lived in Zurich, Switzerland, where he began familiarizing himself with the Bauhaus aesthetic. Ideas involving abstract art and color harmony had a profound influence on Agam at this time. It was also at this point that Agam began experimenting with the fourth dimension of time in his art.
From Zurich, Agam moved to Paris, forging ahead into uncharted territory: the exploration of the fourth dimension. In Paris, Agam immersed himself in the French art scene, befriending such notables as Brancusi, Yves Klein, and Calder. In 1955, Agam had a show at the Galerie Denise Rene in Paris pairing him with the works of Vasarely and Tinguely. Many trace the birth of the kinetic art movement to this show. The exhibit included pieces that not only moved, but also works whose images only became fully apparent as the viewer changed position. This was revolutionary.
Agam has gone on to have one-man shows at such notable museums as The Iseten Museum, Tokyo; Guggenheim Museum, NY; Museo de Arte Moderno, MX; and The Musee National d`Art Moderne, Paris. Innumerable institutions around the globe boast an Agam including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Hirschorn Sculpture Museum, DC; The Tel Aviv Museum; The Julliard School of Music at Lincoln Center, NY; and The White House.
Agam has changed the course of art history in the 20th century. He does not paint on a conventional canvas; instead he works on surfaces of wood, metal, or even building facades. Agam`s sculptures are metallic forms of stainless steel or gold plated brass. His materials are selected for their ability to generate kinetic sets of images, or because of their coolness, roughness, or whimsy. Agam`s palette ranges from bright to pale, and from hot to cool. He frequently employs the entire spectrum, together with black and white, in a single image. These techniques and methods, coupled with his endless search for expressions of the fourth dimension, not only define Agam, but also distinguish him from the rest of the art world.