A Rare Mohair tapestry. Royal Lesotho Tapestry Weavers produced tapestries for Alexander Calder, Yaacov Agam, Victor Vasarely, Christo Coetzee and Karel Appel amongst many famous artists.
The son of a rabbi, Agam can trace his ancestry back six generations to the founder of the Chabad movement in Judaism. Agam has been associated h with “abstract” artists, “hard edge” artists, and artists such as Josef Albers and Max Bill. Others find in Agam’s work an indebtedness to the masters of the Bauhaus. Agam’s approach to art, being conceptual in nature, has been likened to Marcel Duchamp’s, who expressed the need to put art “at the service of the spirit.” And, because of Agam’s employment of motion in his art, he has been compared to Alexander Calder, the artist who put sculpture into motion.
Agam's family recognized his artistic ability and, in 1946, he entered the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Studying with Mordecai Ardon, a former student at the Weimar Bauhaus, he discovered the differences between other cultures which stress the afterlife and the Hebrew culture which emphasizes the present. Because Judaism believes life is dynamic and ever-changing, Agam determined that static paintings were inadequate to express the constantly occurring changes which surround us. In 1950 Agam went to Zurich to study with Johannes Itten at the Kunstgewerbeschule. There, he met Frank Lloyd Wright and Siegfried Giedion, whose ideas on the element of time in art and architecture impressed him. In 1955, Galerie Denise René hosted a major group exhibition in connection with Vasarely's painting experiments with movement. This was the first important exhibition of kinetic art; in addition to art by Vasarely, it included works by Pol Bury, Soto and Jean Tinguely, among others.
In 1951, Agam moved to Paris. A number of the world-famous Surrealist artists living in France were the first to discover and encourage him. His first one-man exhibition held at Galerie Craven, Paris in 1953, featured kinetic and transformable Op Art paintings which invited spectator participation. The show was a critical success and attracted considerable attention in art circles. Max Ernst was the first person to acquire a work by Agam.
In 1972, Agam created a whole Environmental Salon for the Elysee Palace in Paris, including walls, kinetic ceiling, moving transparent colored doors and a kinetic tapestry on the floor. The Environmental Salon is now on permanent exhibit at the Pompidou Museum in Paris. At the same time, an Agam mural was being completed at the President's Mansion in Jerusalem. In the new district of La Defense in Paris, he created a monumental musical fountain (1975) comprising 66 vertical water jets shooting water up to 14 meters (46').
In 1980, a major one-man retrospective exhibit, "Beyond the Visible," was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
In 1983, Israel issued an Agam stamp, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel.
His paintings "Double Metamorphosis 11" in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and "Transparent Rhythms 11" in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. give the best example of his polymorphic painting. His works are placed in many public places including "Communication x 9" on the Michigan Avenue in Chicago (1983), "Communication: Night and Day" at the AT&T building in New York (1974), "Super Lines Volumes" at the Pare Floral in Paris (1971), and his murals "Peace" and "Life" arc installed at the Parliament of Europe in Strasbourg (1977).
Agam has delivered lectures concerning his theories and experiments at many art schools, conventions, universities and museums, and during the year of 1968 he was a guest-lecturer at Harvard University, where he conducted a seminar and course "Advanced Exploration in Visual Communication", International recognition has been widespread: Prize for Artistic Research at the Sao Paolo Biennale (1963), Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1974), Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University (1975), Medal of the Council of Europe (1977), Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1985), Sandberg Prize from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (1985), Palette d'Or at the International Festival at Cagnes-surMer (1985), and most recently the Grand Prize at the First International Biennale in Nagoya, Japan, ARTECH '89 (1989).
He has participated in shows all over the world and has had many one-man exhibitions, including the retrospective exhibition held at the Musee National d'art Modeme in Paris (1972), which was then shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Stadtische Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf, and Tel Aviv Museum. Another large-scale retrospective exhibit was held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1980). He had a large one-man exhibition at the Museum ofPontoise (1975), the Palm Spring Desert Museum, California, on an occasion of the inauguration of the museum (1976), the Museum of Art Birmingham, Alabama (1976), the Museo de Arte Modemo, Mexico (1976), the National Museum of Art, Cape Town, South Africa (1977). The retrospective exhibition was held at the lsetan Museum in Tokyo, Daimaru Museum in Osaka and Kawasaki City Museum in Japan (1989), and at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires Argentina (1996). He also held an exhibition "Selected Suites" at the Jewish Museum, New York (1975). Agam has also had many one-man shows in art galleries since 1953, including Denise Rene Gallery, Paris (1956), MarIborough-Gerson Gallery, New York (1966), Gallery Denise Rene, New York (1971).
About Yaacov Agam
Op art pioneer Yaacov Agam’s abstract artworks—which range from painting, sculpture, drawing, and ceramics, to stained glass and etching—typically incorporate light, sound, or viewer participation. The son of an orthodox rabbi, Agam first trained as an artist in Jerusalem, going on to combine formalist art with kabbalistic mysticism, and he is credited with introducing geometric abstraction to Israeli art. Agam’s best known series of works, comprised of painted strips that appear to shift and oscillate as viewers alter their points of view, would become known as “Agamographs”. He has also produced public commissions, including the world’s largest menorah, installed in New York City, and Star of Peace for Ben-Gurion university that fused the five-pointed star of Islam with the six-pointed Star of David. Agam met and was influenced by the Bauhaus artist and teacher Johannes Itten in Zurich, and also cites Wassily Kandinsky’s abstraction as an influence on his practice.
Israeli, b. 1928, Rishon LeZion, Israel, based in Paris, France