THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, December 21, 1984
BY VICTORIA DIAZ
Special to The Jewish News
At a Southfield
exhibition, Yaacov Agam
direction, an observer sees one picture.
Viewed from another direction, an al-
together different image is discovered.
Regarding the Agamographs,
Agam has said that, in them, he has
tried to create a . . . graphic artwork
. . . producing a foreseeable infinity of
plastic situations flowing out of one
another. Their successive apparitions
and disappearances provide ever-
In another part of the gallery, a
$9,000 graphic, "Hope," resembles a
kind of sliding, vertical Venetian
blind. Viewers can move the "blind"
back and forth, each time creating a
different arrangement of kaleido-
scopic colors and shapes.
"YoU can move it," said one ex-
cited onlooker. "You can actually
create your own picture. Look at this!"
Across the room, a small group of
people twirled and spun parts of a
small metal sculpture entitled "Gold
Space-Divider," while a young woman
tentatively e-arranged the shiny,
movable parts of the "Hundred Gates"
sculpture, one of the largest pieces in
Many of the people seemed hesi-
tant to reach out, touch, and especially
to re-arrange the artist's work, but
such participation is something which
has been '.going on, with Agam's
encouragement, since his first major
show, held in Paris in 1953.
"I believe everybody is an artist,"
he said. "Decorative art has a value in
life, but what I try to convey in my
work is that art is not just something
`nice' to look at. It seeks to underscore
that participation by people . . . in-
volves a person in a way of life which
has change and continuity . . . a life
which is open to all possibilities of de-
velopment and newness."
Although he has since establiShed
himself securely in the art world
(Agam is generally recognized as the
Father of Kinetic Art) and has held
numerous major exhibitions at such
places as the Guggenheim Museum in
New York, the Musee d'Art Moderne
in Paris, the Tel Aviv Museum in Is-
rael, the Stedelijk Museum in
Amsterdam, and the Instituto Na-
cional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City,
Agam claims art critics accepted his I
work with little enthusiasm at the be-
ginning of his career. After studying at
the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem
in the late 1940s, the Israeli-born son
of an Orthodox rabbi took up residence
in Paris and continued his work there.
"I came from another point of
view, looking for something," he said.
"At, the show in Paris in 1953, every-
thing moved, everything changed. It
was the first major show in the history
of art in which things moved and
changed and the critics had very many
problems accepting me. Nobody
wanted to write about me. They'd say
We don't know what this is' or We've
never seen this before.' They simply
didn't know what to make of it."
Fellow artists, hoWever, were
more receptive to his work, Agam said,
adding that American surrealist Max
Ernst was one of his first clients.
"Ernst stopped in at the show and
bought a piece," he said. "Then he sent
his friends over to buy other pieces.
"The public also liked the work —
mostly the American public because,
in France, people like the traditional.
But Americans like to bank on the fu-
ture, shape the times."
During the past 30 years, some of
Agam's most notable works have been
produced in the U.S. Among them are
the single largest painting in the
world, "Villa Regina," which covers
the 300,000-square-foot surface of a
Miami apartment building, plus
"Hommage a Mondrian," a 100,000-
square-foot work., covering the ex-
terior of the hotel Le Mondrian in Los
Angeles, and "Communications X
Nine," a monumental kinetic
sculpture in Chicago.
Agam's most recent U.S. project,
entitled "Reflection and Depth,"is a
30-foot by 30-foot mural painted on
mirrored, stainless steel surfaces at
the Port Authority bus terminal in
New York City. Agam's mural, com-
missioned by the Port Authority of
New York City and dedicated Dec. 17,
was chosen from among 40 other ar-
tists' works by a jury of New York
"When the people walk by, their
images are projected onto the wall," he
said, speaking of the work. "Like the
city itself, (the work) is not static, but
constantly changes, depending on
one's point of view."
A high point in Agam's career oc-
curred in 1979, when he presented to
Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and
Israel's Prime Minister Menachem
Begin a "peace star" he had created as
a symbol of peace in the Middle East.
"Agam is one of the best ambas-
sadors Israel has ever had," said Israel
Ambassador to the U.S. Meir Rosenne,
who was on hand to introduce Agam at
the preview opening. "Agam has given
expression to the deep feelings of the
Jewish people fighting for peace," he
added, in reference to Agam's creation
of the peace star symbol, which incor-
porates, in its design, both the Star of
David and the Star of Egypt.Contend-
ing that his work always comes "just
from inspiration," Agam said that that
inspiration is derived from a desire to
express values incorporated in the
"Every civilization has a form," he
said. "If you look at something, you can
say, This is Greek' or This is Egyp-
tian' or This is Japanese.' But you
cannot say, This is Jewish.' The form
is much more intricate, much more
"The driving force and the source
from which I draw my inspiration stem
from my desire to give plastic and ar-
tistic expression to the ancient He-
brew concept of reality, which differs
in its essence from that of all other
civilizations, and which, to my mind,
has never found its true artistic ex-
Agam added that his work has al-
ways been influenced significantly by
an artist whom he describes as "not
now in fashion and almost unknown."
"His name is The Almighty."
Although Agam lives in Israel, he
does much of his work in Paris. Di-
vorced and the father of three children,
he said he relaxes between art projects
by spending time with his daughter,
Orrit, and sons Ron and Orram.
In addition to his art,. he has also
found the time over the past years to
author 36 volumes, all focusing on the
language of images.
What does he plan to do in the
Smiling and looking as if he knew
a delightful secret, he replied, "Ah —
that I will keep for a surprise."