Agam, Yaacov

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AGAM, YAACOV (1928– ), Israeli painter and sculptor. Born Ya'akov Gibstein in Rishon le-Zion to an Orthodox Jewish family. His father, a rabbi, sent him to religious schools. Agam was arrested in 1945 by the British on suspicion of being a member of the Jewish underground and kept in prison for 18 months. He received his professional training at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem under the influence of his modernist teacher Mordecai *Ardon. Agam continued his art studies in Zurich with Johannes Itten and at the Atelier d'Art Abstrait in Paris. In 1953 he had his first one-man show at the Galerie Craven, in Paris, where he presented his preliminary Kinetic Art. These works went under the general title of "Transformable Pictures" and characterized his style during the 1970s (Pace of Time, 1970, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). The works featured parallel triangles painted with abstract forms. Through the movement of the spectator the views changed and the kinetic quality of the work came to the fore. Agam said that his interest in concepts of time derived from Jewish spirituality, in which the world is seen as involved in a perpetual dynamism.

With his kinetic sculpture the spectator was required to be more active, to touch and move the sculpture's components. More than once Agam referred to these works in the terminology of the world of games. The images appearing in them were mostly derived from Jewish symbolism (The Hundred Gates, 1972, President's Residence, Jerusalem). Over the years, Agam enlarged his repertoire of works. His involvement with the environment was expressed through his decoration of building facades and interiors. His famous kinetic fountain combining water, fire, and music altogether, is a very impressive and complex piece of art (Fire and Water, 1986, Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv).

In 1996 Agam was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Education on his didactic plan for combining art and science.


F. Popper, Agam (1990); S. Aragaki, AgamBeyond the Visible (1997).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]