Born in 1928 as the son of an Orthodox rabbi, Agam’s consciousness was always shrouded in mysticism. Steeped in the Kabbala along with the spiritual writings of Wassily Kandinsky and the conceptual revolutions of form and color developed by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, Agam emerged with an art form independent from all others. In Agam’s art there is a departure from traditional forms of visual expression. In conventional art, everything is visible. Agam’s art strives to capture the invisible; the possible but not yet experienced, and in this way the infinite.
Agam says, “I am not an abstract artist… Abstract art shows a situation on a canvas. I show a state of being which does not exist, the imperceptible absence of an image… The infinity of possibilities, opposing the chance of a presence, a possibility.”
Yaacov Agam trained at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, before moving to Zürich, Switzerland in 1949, where he studied under Johannes Itten (1888–1967) at the Kunstgewerbe Schule, and was also influenced by the painter and sculptor Max Bill (1908–1994).
In 1951 Agam went to Paris, France, where he still lives. He has a daughter and two sons, one of whom is the photographer Ron Agam.
“Genius” is a hard word to substantiate, as these days in our transient and disposable culture it is often thrown about in reference to all sorts of people from all walks of life. But too often, sadly, novelty is confused with quality.
In the case of 81-year-old artist Yaacov Agam, the word “genius” only touches the surface. The world is filled with his art. From giant installations found in places as far flung as Taipei, Jerusalem and New York City, to individual objects that grace the collections of his devotees from all over the world, Agam has made his mark, which will not be erased from history.
When one encounters an Agam work, an indefinable experience occurs. Rather than in the traditional artistic experience - where the viewer passively absorbs what the artist has created - in Agam’s art the viewer and the artwork merge. The artwork cannot appear, or come into being, without theparticipation of the viewer; the creative process and the aesthetic experienced are mingled, and inseparable from one another. The work of art does not exist unless the viewer is engaged and thereby involved in creating its existence.
Agam's first solo exhibition was at the Galerie Craven, Paris, in 1953, and he exhibited three works at the 1954 Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. He established himself as one of the leading pioneers of kinetic art at the Le Mouvement exhibition at the Galerie Denise René, Paris, in 1955, alongside such artists as Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Díez, Pol Bury, Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely.
In 1964, Agam wrote his artistic credo, unchanged since then.
"My intention was to create a work of art which would transcend the visible, which cannot be perceived except in stages, with the understanding that it is a partial revelation and not the perpetuation of the existing. My aim is to show what can be seen within the limits of possibility which exists in the midst of coming into being."