Biography of Yaacov Agam (1928-VVVV)

Israeli artist, born in Rishon le-Zion, Palestine, in 1928. A pioneer of kinetic art, is a versatile artist who has researched new materials in order to create changing works according to the point of view of the viewer and invite it to make an active exploration. His work has a strong spiritual and cultural component linked to the Jewish religion.

Son of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Yaacov Agam, whose given name is Yaacov Gipstein, was born in 1928 in Rishon le Zion, city of Palestine, which by then was under British rule. He/She received an education marked by the religion that no doubt influenced his way of seeing art as a form of spiritual expression. In his childhood witnessed an attack on a bus by an Arab terrorist group. It had just 18 years old when he/she was detained on suspicion of belonging to the "Resistance Army, Israel". It suffered a conviction that retained him 18 months in jail, between 1945 and 1946.

His artistic career began in his teens, in 1940, after discovering the painting of Van Gogh. It was later discovered the great masters (Rembrandt) and the artists of the 19th (Soutine, Daumier or Doré) at the end of World War II, in 1946, began his art studies at the Academy of Arts and design in Bezalel, Jerusalem. This school was at that time influenced by the German Bauhaus school and Agam received there the first influences of abstract movements that also in Europe, particularly of Constructivism. To complete his studies, he/she travelled to Zurich where he/she met J. Itten, S. Giedion and M. Bill. Advised by S. Giedion, he/she decided to travel to the United States, particularly in Chicago, but a stopover in Paris held him in this city, which became his permanent residence. No doubt his decision to remain in Paris was impulsive since then I did not know the language or had any known in the city. Soon it came to form part of a group of artists who, by then, the early 1950's, became known as representatives of the Nouvelle Tendence (new trend). The aesthetics used to defend this group was art perceptual, also known as Op Art (optical art), based on the illusionary effects resulting objects and colors on the human eye. This movement has a strong scientific base, perhaps the most studied, or at least emphasized by critics. But the work of Agam and reviews make emphasis on the spiritual meaning of this aesthetic and its universality condition to cause spontaneous reactions, not thrown in the public. From this starting point aesthetic, Agam developed his work approached more and more the trend known as kinetic art. In 1953 he/she made his first individual exhibition, and in 1955 participated in the first international exhibition of kinetic art, which took place in the Gallery of Denise René of Paris. From this moment and always attached to this movement, exhibitions and awards followed. He/She participated in the Paris biennial in 1959 and in the sample 'Movement in art' in Amsterdam. In 1963 he/she won first prize at the Sao Paulo biennial, where there was a significant anecdote of his artistic research: the Court had to create a new category within the biennial, the prize for artistic research, since they did not know whether to grant him the prize for sculpture or painting.

This artist's work inevitably adds a fourth dimension, time, manifested through the movement. From his early work, the polyphonic pictures of 53, in which the viewer sees different pictures as it moves around the work since they consist of small plates placed in fan-shaped with geometric patterns that link with each other, it has not abandoned the abstract forms and the movement as the essence in his work. These first pictures that require the movement of the spectator passed to make works that move indeed, kinetic sculpture and transformable paintings to be operated by electric mechanisms or by own human action.

The fascination with new materials led him to experiment with graphic techniques and thus, in the 1970s, invented the agamografia, to which followed multigrafías them, dinamografias, espaciografias and interespaciografias. It has also used new technologies to develop their work, video art, holography, electronic and cyber art, etc. Light, even electromagnetic waves, are part of his work.

Agam wants patent in his art the fact that ".. .no there are two spectators who can see the same thing at the same time, and no one can see everything at a given moment." His work invites to be explored, to discover a not visible reality emerging from a very definite spiritual and cultural plane, at least for the artist.

In his own words: "my inspiration comes from my desire to give artistic shape to the ancient Hebrew concept of reality, that it differs essentially from the all other civilizations and, to me, has never found his true artistic expression".


RACON, Michel: Yaacov Agam. (Barcelona, 1976).

RACON, Michel: Agam kinetic art. (Barcelona, 1980).

Yaacov Agam. Art and technology foundation. (Madrid, 1997).