Written by Bruce Helander
Manolis Projects Gallery
Contemporary artists almost always can point to an important turning point in their early development that cemented their interest in art and advancement as young creative painters. Whether it is an encouraging influence or motivating inspiration from family, friends, colleagues, classmates or the art stars at the time, imaginative advances are passed down through the generations. Early evidence of this phenomenon has been seen throughout history, where a baton in the shape of a paintbrush was handed off to those in the artistic road race who had the confidence and an explorer’s mindset to discover a novel way of interpreting innovation. The tradition can be traced back for literally thousands of years to when independent societies produced evidence of line drawings that were man’s first abstracted gestures. In today’s world we have evolved from the earliest documented examples of humankind’s creative efforts to express themselves and communicate to others their own recognizable brand of imagery. Evidence indicates that early man, who often lived in caves for protection from roaming beasts, also had an intuitive impulse to articulate their hopes and desires through scratches and painterly gestures on the cave walls that became historically significant. Fast forward to when pioneering artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris broke down standard narrative portraits into geometric lines that reinterpreted realism into an image that was revolutionary and at the same time persuaded a generation of artists who were willing to pursue new techniques and investigate unknown territory for creative manifestation.
This burst of experimentation and juxtaposition ignited a raging fire of convention-breaking compositions that constantly moved forward into noteworthy, different interpretations of figurative and landscape portrayals. These ultimately generated an examination of color-field pictures that also revolutionized the concept of incorporating geometric designs onto canvas. Color-field painters such as Robert Motherwell and his wife, Helen Frankenthaler, Piet Mondrian, Kenneth Noland, Paul Klee, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still, Bridget Riley, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Robert Goodnough, Yaacov Agam, Josef Albers and Hans Hofmann stretched the acceptable boundaries of non-representational art that quickly became popular and iconic. For example, Gene Davis, another color-field painter, devised a parade of brightly colored, edge-to-edge stripes that not only made his name and changed his career, but it also put him at the forefront of a major new art movement founded in the nation’s capital called the Washington Color School. Perhaps Davis’ most memorable work was not on canvas but was his literal “street art” stripes painted directly on the boulevard outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1972.
As the popularity of reduced color-field narrowed down to minimal gestures of horizontal and vertical lines, and with Josef Albers’ historic study of colored squares within squares, artists began to research an expansion of the circuitous opportunities of artistic exploration.
Ron Agam, who had the advantage of growing up around the Paris studio of his famous father, painter Yaacov Agam, was able to assimilate the invention and fortitude of his dad and twist it into a completely different context that is his own original body of work. The evolution of Agam’s paintings certainly takes a cue from early geometric works but he adds his own remarkable visual compositional signature. Illusion, repeat patterns, color juxtaposition, spatial relationships—all are packed into his dynamic works, finely tuned with precision and panache. They are beautiful, yet on another level, their appearance and meaning are in the eye and interpretation of the viewer. In “The First Name is Ron,” Dr. Jerome Neutres writes, “Ron Agam is a modern humanist, and when he is not painting, he is reading or writing. It isn’t surprising that for this artist, art should not only enable us to see but also to think. The visual work of Ron Agam’s painting is in the highest tradition of the exploration of the essence of form. In this perceptual art, as Duchamp said, “It is the regardeurs who make the picture.”
The remarkable survey of Ron Agam’s work at Manolis Projects in Miami promises to be one of the most memorable exhibitions of the gallery season. The physical size of the exhibition space, a converted warehouse with high ceilings, is the perfect showcase for displaying the colorful geometrics inherent in Agam’s art.
Among the notable images on view are “Ron Agam in the Studio,” a portrait of the artist surrounded with the creative materials of his trade. As a colorist his palette seems unlimited in terms of variety and this photo paints its own picture with the impressive supply of materials necessary for Agam to articulate an abundance of color harmony and juxtaposition.
Although the artist’s standard format is often based on a square, in this work titled “Waves,” he has taken on the challenge of dividing a circle shape into five sections of meandering wavy lines that inventively create an illusion of three-dimensional ripples running in separate directions to form a unique and handsome composition.
“Eye of the Circle,” another stunning work in a circular configuration, Agam is pictured here adding the final touches to a distinctive spherical design that creates a sense of depth in a virtual rainbow of glowing color.
Usually, Agam’s most recognized format is an arrangement that presents a square within a square. As an experienced master in creating magic with color and shape, this work titled “Expanding Rainbow II” delivers a convincing impression of dramatic layers of square shapes that seem to recede into a deep center of yellow that is amplified by the strong outer squares to support his creation of mystical space.
In “Berechit/Creation,” the artist has assembled a pure white square of textured triangles whose shadows offer an intriguing grid of six-pointed stars. These stars generate a pattern of delicate interconnecting crisscrossing lines that also generate a subtle gradation of off-white tones that turn into a light Payne’s gray.
In this distinctive work titled “Infinite Infinity,” four separate square shapes are designed to construct one larger square within a square, appearing as a wonderful separate element that either retreats into the picture plane or jumps out as an aerial view as if one was looking down at a modern-day pyramid. The small white squares in the middle of each segment seem to recede while the shapes with a small black center engender an impression of height. Devoid of strong colors, many of the repeated geometric lines provide an understated tonality in light grays, blues and other tints.
“Homage to Klimt #11,” a bold canvas for which Agam has invented an ambulatory dance of colored geometric shapes that seem to move up and down like the traffic patterns in a busy metropolis. The work is remotely reminiscent of Mondrian’s famous “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (1942) series, with an inventive twist accentuated by shapes of sunset orange and transparent yellow.
“Ein Sof,” a work with a base of cream and red pigment cut into slices like a deck of cards in a magician’s hand, produces a mind-blowing illusion and movement that is handsome and charismatically characteristic of the artist’s masterful interpretations of geometric designs that capture a viewer’s imagination and contemplation.
Ron Agam is shown by Manolis Projects
335 NE 59th Street, Miami, Florida 33137
(917)-971-3201 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bruce Helander is an artist who writes on art. He is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, a former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the former Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design. His latest book, “Magic in a Square,” is about the inherent beauty of vintage handkerchiefs, and his book “Chihuly – An Artist Collects” is a national bestseller.