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© Yaacov Agam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Lumière de minuit, 1973

Artist: Yaacov Agam, Israeli, b. 1928

Medium: Oil on metal

Painting: 32 x 49 5/8 in. (81.3 x 126 cm)

Credit Line: Gift and partial purchase of Mr. Irving Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Morrie A. Moss, Mr. and Mrs. Jack A. Belz, Mr. and Mrs. Ira A. Lipman, and Museum Purchase

Object Number: 83.17

Copyright: © Yaacov Agam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

On View

Yaacov Agam, Paris; Irving Harris, Chicago, Illinois, 1983 (donated through the Goldman-Kraft Gallery, Chicago, Illinois)

Yaacov Agam, who was born the son of a rabbi in Rishon Le-Zion, Israel, was greatly influenced by his religious heritage and the doctrines of the Orthodox Judaic faith. He studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem from 1947 to 1948 and the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich in 1949. Agam was interested in the idea of life as dynamic rather than static, and adapted the concept into his art when he moved to Paris in 1951. He began to make kinetic art, which is sculpture that actually moves as a whole or in parts. At the same time, Agam also made art, such as Lumière de Minuit, that creates the optical illusion of movement as viewers change their position in relation to the object. The artist developed a special vocabulary to describe his work and calls this type of painting, which is intended to play with the complexities of human perception as the viewer moves from side to side, an “Agamomorph."


The picture plane is literally a three-dimensional surface with raised triangular columns onto which the artist has painted a grid of colorful geometric shapes in carefully placed repeating patterns. As the viewer moves from right to left, the image changes with every step. From the far right, one sees blocky white shapes and lines on a black background. Moving toward the center, the field changes to a reveal thick outlines of geometric shapes in vibrant pink, purple, yellow, orange, blue, green, and red. Continuing to the far left, one can see three alternating horizontal spectrums, in highly saturated color, with geometric shapes in black and white peppered throughout. Each of these views, and the many others achieved as the viewer changes position, presents a new and exciting perspective. What is normally a static picture is instead a lively image where metamorphosis is fundamental. The interaction between the viewer and the work of art provides a sense of discovery and magic to the experience, thus fulfilling the artist's desire for constant change and dynamism.