The Eighteen Levels
Israel born 1928
The eighteen levels
The acclaimed Israeli artist Yaacov Gibstein (later Agam) trained at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem before moving to Switzerland in 1949 where he studied in Zurich under the renowned colour theorist and later Bauhaus teacher Johannes Itten.
Agam is credited with introducing geometric abstraction to Israeli art and, more widely, is recognised as a pioneer of kinetic art. In 1951 he relocated to Paris and mixed with leading modernists such as Brancusi and Leger.
Best known for abstract and kinetic works in public spaces, some of which are fountains, Agam had a retrospective exhibition in 1972 at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, and another in New York in 1980 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
His work often incorporates symbols of both Jewish and Christian faiths, but ultimately is aligned with optical-kinetic art in which finely-calibrated patterns generate the illusion of movement or blurring. With its grid-like structure, Eighteen levels evokes ‘the journey of life’ with the first and last bars representing the ‘static state of each person’s birth and death … (while) the central bars… (indicate) the choices we make at any time in our lives’.
Another version of Eighteen levels is located at the entrance to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.