Yaacov Agam, the artist, stands for the beginning of a new art. This is not to say that his works do not have aesthetic antecedents and points of reference in art history, or, that the artist creates in a vacuum, uninfluenced by art that preceded him and the contemporary art of his time, or, that similarities and comparisons cannot be drawn between Agam's works and those of other artists as diverse as Durer, Goya, de Vinci, Mondrian, Klee and Picasso.
Agam travels with fluidity among various artistic traditions and critical labels.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 him 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 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 Calder, the artist who put sculpture into motion. (Motion is not an end, but a means for Agam. Calder's mobiles are structures that are fixed, revolving at the whim of the wind. In a work by Agam, the viewer must intervene.) Agam has also been classified as an pop artist because he excels in playing with our visual sensitivities. Moreover, it is generally acknowledged that Agam is one of the founders of the post-war kinetic art movement, along with Pol Bury, Soto and Tinguely.
Agam not only defies the boundaries of a specific artistic movement or style, but he also transcends the label artist. He is, through his approaches to art, the philosopher, the poet, the psychologist, the mystic and the teacher. His father, the rabbi (teacher) conveyed religious and philosophical insights by the traditional rabbinic teaching method...the dialogue of words. Agam, like his father, is also the teacher using the dialectic, but the son communicates with visual symbols.
Other artists perform for their audience. They seek art appreciation of their works, based upon the superiority of their artistic intellect, skill and craft. In this sense, artists prescribe their vision for us, much like an actor performing on the stage. Both the artist and the actor do what they can to obtain applause. For Agam, art is not tantamount to the results of the artist prescribing and performing. Agam, with his art, and most especially his graphic art, propels us into a silent dialogue. He guides us into the added fourth dimension of time and makes us co-creators, setting us up for an intense encounter with a knowing which we rarely experience.
With Agam, art is no longer permanent, inaccessible and still. The artist is not omnipotent, but pliable, his works demanding that the onlooker co-create. But, you may ask, isn't art something immobile, something to be respected in its display? It is precisely this attitude toward art, implicit in such a question, that Agam's works refute.He creates art that pushes the boundaries of traditional forms and aesthetic principles. His paintings, sculptures, and limited edition graphics reflect his ever-changing explorations of movement, color, and perception. Since 1955, when he participated in the Movement exhibition that created a sensation in Paris, Agam has sought to express his ideas in a non-static form of art. In his abstract works, which range from paintings and graphics to sculptural installations and building facades. Agam continually seeks to explore new possibilities in form and color and to involve the viewer in all aspects of the artistic process.
Thus, for over 45 years, Yaacov Agam's pioneering ideas have impacted developments in art, architecture, theatre, and public sculpture. Reflecting both his Jewish heritage and his involvement with leaders of the Bauhaus and Surrealist movements, Agam's works have influenced generations of modern artists.