“…abstract artist of diverse, innovative works characterized
by geometric shapes, pure color, and lucid design.”
by Lilly Wei
Ron Agam is an abstract artist of diverse, innovative works characterized by geometric shapes, pure color, and lucid design. He is also a photographer of note, both of portraits and striking, oversized close-ups of representational images that verge on the abstract. He says he sees only patterns when he works, not the actual rose, for instance. Experimenting with lenticular printing and holography, his curiosity about mediums and their potential is ongoing and wide-ranging. Tilting toward the modernist, his practice is a reconsideration of Russian Constructivism, de Stijl, Op and Minimalist art, all movements that have intrigued and influenced him. When asked why he became an abstract artist focused on color, Agam said, “I was always surrounded by abstraction. It was like being thrown into the ocean and told to swim and my ocean was abstraction, I didn’t know anything else.”
Agam uses both canvas and wood as his supports, the latter sometimes treated three-dimensionally and might be classified as sculptural reliefs, filled with raised circles, squares and other such forms. His production is marked by the immediacy of its impact, the colors extraordinarily vivid, often enhanced by their cannily calibrated juxtapositions. Usually based on a variant of the grid, Agam’s compositions are elegant, clean, the overall execution highly polished. The phenomenology of the perceptual, the effects of color, light, shape, their interaction in space and the optical movement they create comprise the core of his astonishing production. He both makes his works by hand and utilizes technology but he does not fetishize either, he said. Nonetheless, Agam revels in the sensuousness and the physicality of materials, the paint, the wood, even the epoxy he spreads over the surfaces of some of his works like a second, reflective, transparent skin.
“…The phenomenology of the perceptual, the effects of color, light, shape, their interaction in space and the optical movement they create comprise the core of his astonishing production.”
Although surrounded by art and involved in the international art world from infancy, he began painting seriously only a few years ago. Soon after, he added small wood panels with raised images created by a high-speed router to his repertoire, inspired by Jean (Hans) Arp, whom Agam has admired since he was a child. From there, his ambitions and his scale expanded exponentially, his sense of urgency spurred by a feeling that time was slipping away from him and he needed to catch up with his destiny. He works intuitively, fearlessly, and incessantly. Stimulated by challenges, he likes to quote Matisse’s observation that an artist should not permit himself to be imprisoned by anything in the field of abstraction.
His recent projects continue to explore the themes and motifs that he first established when he began to make art, although the present works are generally less giddy, less hallucinogenic than some of his previous, more optically unsettling lenticular and holographic ventures.
That said, his vertigo-inducing pinstriped blue painting of two different shades of blue against a white ground packs quite a visual punch as it advances and recedes, as does a red octagon that suggests a wavering abstract flower. Its chiseled, angled swirl of white lines, as well as its irregular perimeter, stirs the surface into choppy, mesmerizing motion, as if seen under the influence of an intoxicant. Another work is calmer, its pristine white field supporting a three-tiered trio of what looks like giant sugar cubes attached precariously to it at a single point, the upper faces—each painted a different color—tipped upward toward the field, lighting it with a small beam of reflected color, a low-tech, environmentally friendly illumination system. A related work also features a series of white cubes, only much smaller, arranged as a grid of eight by eight little squares, the sweet colors, like those of candy or pills, pulsing gently but insistently.
Other recent works are more or less straightforward paintings of nested squares that recall those of Josef Albers, Frank Stella and Richard Anuszkiewicz. Agam, however, adds his own twist to them, such as in Disruptive #2, by superimposing another system of chevroned stripes over the main composition, creating an optical collision, complicating the reading of a work that, as always, explores the compelling, subjective experience of color.
Lilly Wei is an art critic for the major art publications in the US and independent curator based in New York.