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Yaacov Agam (Israeli, b.b. 1928)


Also known as:  Agam, Jacob Gipstein; Gipstein, Yaacov

Yaacov Agam (b. May 11, 1928 - ), born Yaacov Gibstein, has been and continues to be a leading Israeli artist. As a sculptor and experimental artist, he is most well-known for his influence on optical and kinetic art, both of which stress change and movement. Even at the beginning of his career, Agam created abstract, kinetic work, often incorporating light and sound, that placed a focus on viewer participation. This strategy of encouraging active involvement from the spectator was still very rare at the time, but this has remained at the core of his practice throughout his career.

Agam began his training in Jerusalem at the Bezalel Academy and studied under the artist Mordecai Ardon. In 1949, he moved to Zurich and then Paris, where he studied with various artists and teachers, including the Bauhaus color-theoretician Johannes Itten, whose work greatly influenced Agam.

In 1953, he had his first solo exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Craven, where he displayed two series of early work. One of the series included grids of painted strips with different designs on opposite sides, creating images that change as viewers shift their position. This specific type of lenticular print was later named after Agam as the “Agamograph.” In 1955, he exhibited at the Galerie Denise René with other influential Kinetic artists, including Alexander Calder and Jean Tinguely.

Much of Agam’s work is placed in public spaces to again emphasize spectator participation. Some of his most notable public commissions include a moving salon environment at the Elysée Palace in Paris in 1972, and a 1987 memorial at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem for the victims of the Holocaust. Agam is also responsible for creating the world's largest menorah, based on the original in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. The structure stands at 32 feet tall and 4,000 pounds at Fifth Avenue and 59th street in New York City.

In 1996, Agam received the Jan Amos Comenius Medal by UNESCO for the "Agam Method,” a visual education program for young children. In 2017, the Yaacov Agam Museum of Art opened in his hometown of Rishon LeZion, devoted solely to his works. He continues to live and work in Paris.

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