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RON AGAM

RON AGAM: RECENT WORKS Name XX¾” x XX” | 1


The Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale gratefully acknowledges the vision and leadership of Barbara Slifka, the Hauptman Arts and Media Endowment and the Rothko fund of Slifka Center. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale and the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery, NYC, which represents Mr. Agam.

Š 2011 by The Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University. The Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University, Ron Agam and Bertrand Delacroix Gallery retain sole copyright of the materials in this book. Catalogue adapted and modi ed from catalogue accompanying the show at the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.


Abstract Flowers in Black and White, 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 84 x 84 x 4 inches


2 | Nines, 2011, acrylic on canvas mounted on panel, 14 x 14 inches, each


RON AGAM

Spring 2011

Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, New Jersey City University Fall 2012


Renewing Jewish Imagination: Art at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale In addition to serving the Jewish communities of Yale through food, prayer, friendship, celebration, counsel, entertainment, tradition and wisdom, Slifka Center aspires be a laboratory where possibilities for future Judaisms are explored, where memories, dreams and visions are honored and probed. Slifka is committed to stretching and bending Jewish imagination, massaging the inner world of individuals, expanding the range of tastes and fragrances, rhythms and sounds, images and songs, epics and norms which an ever evolving people generates and collects. Jewish textual tradition has always struggled and worked with the myriad of creative expressions that constiWhy does the Biblical phrase used colloquially in Israel to simply say “I like you,” ata rainbow teach about hope, fear and endurance? What so frightened the author of Proverbs about the feminine that he concluded his book with the phrase, “Beauty is a lie, charm a vanity?” What are we to make of the beauty of Esther, the charm of Joseph, the radiating face of Moses and the luminous spectacle of the Talmud’s Rabbi describes the revelation at Mount Sinai, “The entire people saw the voices, the torches, the sound of the shofar, the mountain spewing smoke. The people saw, were moved, and stood at a distance?” How is it possible, this nearness from afar, intimacy at a remove, synaesthesia and mystery? The walls of the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University provide one venue for our explorations. We solicit exhibitions that strive to articulate and reveal layers of questions and conversations that swirl about our lives and our world—political, religious, historic and communal.

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Galaxy Star, 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 51 x 51 inches | 5


6 |Homage to Descartes, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 36 x 35 ž x 1 Ÿ inches


8 | Summer Time, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches


Peaceful Spring, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches

| 9


On behalf of the Consulate General of Israel in NY, we are delighted to congratulate Ron Agam on the occasion of his new exhibition at Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University. Ron Agam has always been one of the most proli c Israeli artists, and his works are a celebration of creativity and imagination. We believe that the cultural dialogue is best accomplished through the arts, and are proud to have Ron presenting in this prestigious University.

Sincerely, Anat Gilead Consul for Cultural A airs in the USA

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Galaxy in the T, 2011, acrylic on canvas mounted on panel, 96 x 110 x 3 inches

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12 | In the Universe, 2010, acrylic on canvas mounted on panel, diameter: 72 inches x 3.75 inches


Nirvana, 2011, acrylic on canvas mounted on panel, 118.5 x 118.5 x 4 inches

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AROUND RON Ron! I do not want to be too cratylistic, but I’m sure there’s a link between les mots and les choses. Especially when the word is a name: the world begins here. “Déclarer son nom”, René Char wrote, in a beautiful poem based on the image of a “wheel in the heart”. Déclarer son nom: RON, with its round O right in the middle – in the heart, as a sun, an eye, or the art-vortex where everything starts, and ends, and is reborn… That’s to say: a circle. For Ron the circle is not so much the expression of an aesthetic belief as a metaphysical one: it expresses the notion of in nite, the idea of defying time, defying death. At the same time the circle is the symbol of perfection, of the holistic harmony at work in the world... That is the feeling we get when looking at Endless Galaxy for example. For Ron intuition is at the ground of his work as an artist: “Everything I do, I do out of a gut feeling, out of an emotion of something I can’t explain.” That intuitive process is essential for discovering. For he believes the best discoveries are the ones that happen by chance. “When I was a child, he also said, I was going to exhibitions and I was looking at the paintings. I had no need of explanation nor title, I was just admiring.” Let’s admire again, entering the circle. Let’s go through the hypnotising mirror of the paintings, where we can see the endless round of the eye of the artist… Ron.

Antonin Baudry Cultural Counselor of the Embassy of France Permenent Representative of the French Universities in the United States

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Red Kabbalah, 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 84 x 84 inches | 15


Ron Agam and I met in 2004 soon after I had taken up my post as Consul General of France in New York. During our many subsequent discussions, I was especially struck by his

commitment to art as well as his remarkable ability to bridge peoples

and nations. Indeed, he holds a unique position both as an artist and a humanitarian. Ron always sought to encourage peace and mutual understanding among peoples through his political activities which center on New York, Israel and France. I am most grateful to Ron for the partnerships he helped build between the Jewish community in New York and France. I’ll always remember one iconic moment: the day that Shimon Peres chose to launch the publication of his definitive biography at the French Consulate in New York. Without Ron’s steady advice and support, this would not have occurred. Let this one example suffice to illustrate the significant ties which were made and the goodwill fostered thanks to his collaboration. For all his singular work, Ron was conferred the insignia of Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 2008. I remember Ron telling me about growing up in France and Israel nurtured not only by these two cultures but also by an artistic family with a father who remains a reference in the contemporary art world. Ron developed a rich, wide-ranging perspective early on. As an adventurous young man of nineteen, he decided to leave for the United States. It was a flourishing period; he was c aptivated by the N ew York art s c ene and the s timulating environment of the artis ts of that time, among them A ndy W arhol. He acted as a liaison between artists and the public in many of his ventures and then started exhibiting his own photographs in 1994. These pictures have led him to unexpected arenas – and equally unexpected encounters, from Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Madonna – and frequently o er the viewer an utterly unfamiliar world, such as the conclave of Mea Shearim and, of course, the images of that unspeakable day of 9/11. On that morning, he had raced down to the disaster area from his nearby studio, wanting first and foremost to help the survivors. His photographs of that day remain a testimony to the su ering and the hero ism of thousands. Ron Agam constantly brings fresh, new elements to his work. In his 2009 exhibition “In Full Bloom,” his photos depicted flowers on a monumental scale, almost the size of the viewer himself; one might say that they resembled portraits of human beings, provoking thoughts about our vision of nature and our place within it. I am delighted to introduce this latest facet of Ron Agam’s creative work as an artist. In this new land of abstraction, Ron is an explorer who at once discovers and reveals. This kind of communication with the viewer is subtle and subjective. I invite you to look and to ponder.

François DELATTRE Ambassadeur de France aux Etats-Unis

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In the Big Red Bang,

2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 84 x 84 x 4 inches

| 17


18 | Coral, 2010, acrylic and resin mounted on panel, 16 x 16 x 2 inches


H2O, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches

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Art Watch A photographer who has become a visual artist. Crazy about computers, the digital universe, old and new technologies—all in support of his work. The calculated precision of a computer, the grace of forms and materials. An heir of Albers, the Bauhaus, Malevich and Mondrian, but also a classical painter. A scholar of space and its simplicity, the fluorescent square but also the tantric circle. Color and rigor. Realism and abstraction. A man who remembers his childhood; a son remembering his father and his palette of infinite colors. Discipline and imagination. A photographer, yes, who only began painting after age 50: a new birth? Born twice, several times, in the same lifetime? Or a trueness to oneself that varies only in the paths taken? A rebirth, in any case. And hope. And concern for the world that never leaves him in peace. Ron Agam never sleeps.

— Bernard-Henry Lévy

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Into the Galaxy 84” x 84”


Into the Future 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel , 63 x 63 x 3 inches

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Into the Galaxy I discovered Ron’s universe of color a year ago when I visited his spacious Long Island City studio. I fell for his work instantaneously and planning a show only seemed normal! I was filled with excitement for the challenge, and had so much burning anticipation it would keep me up at night! I would wake up after only a few hours and think about the numerous details involved in planning a show of this magnitude. I simply couldn’t shut my mind down. So my day would start, I would get up to write my thoughts and send 3 AM emails… Until one night, I forced myself back to sleep by focusing on one particular work: Into the Galaxy . What an appropriate title for s uc h an extraordinary work. It would provide me with a vis ual s ens ation and an optic al illus ion s imilar to the N ewton C olor D is k. And while my imagination would be drawn into the spiral of colors, I would direct my attention to the tiny, light-blue dot at the abyss of what my mind perceives as a round, upside-down pyramid. I would embark onto a vertiginous color trip, where shades hypnotized my brain like radiations in a time machine. Colors would mute the chaos of my constant thoughts and slowly I would fade into deep sleep, entering Ron’s Kingdom of Color. Thank you Ron for providing me with joy at day and peace at night. —Bertrand Delacroix

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Into the Galaxy, 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel,Name 84 x 84 x 4x inches | 23 48� 48� | 19


24 | Homage to M, 2010, acrylic and resin mounted on panel, 16 x 16 x 2 inches


Let Me Dream, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches

| 25


26 | Dream, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches


Red Sea, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches

| 27


28 | Elevation, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 35 x 35 x 1 inches


Endless Galaxy, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 36 x 36 x 1

½ inches | 29


30 | Expanding Space, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 36 x 36 x 1

½ inches


Name XX ¾ ” x XX” | 27


32 | Time Contraction, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 34 x 34 x 2 inches


Name XX ¾ ” x XX” | 29


34 | No Absolute, 2010, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches


In a Red Night, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches

| 35


36 | E=MC2, 2011, ink and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 84 x 84 x 4 inches


38 | Caribbean Sea, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 48 x 48 x 3 inches


Kabbalah, 2010, acrylic and resin on canvas mounted on panel, 26 x 26 x 2

½ inches | 39


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My personal exploration in the world of painting is a testimony to my childhood where as a child, I was subjugated by the works of the masters of the early stages of geometric abstraction such as Eli Lissitzky, Malevich, Mondriaan and later Joseph Albers just to name a few. Colors and shapes were part of my life from the moment I opened my eyes. With the works presently exhibited at BDG, I can claim that my shapes, colors and forms are the expression of an artist that lives in the present, creates for the future with a deep respect for the past. My work is the result of constant research that uses traditional tools of imagination and creativity in confluence with the most advance forms of technology. I am at ease with both worlds and they both enable me to be the artist that I want to be, a constant explorer in the world of space and colors.

– RON AGAM


“Several times a week Ron Agam emails me an image of a painting or drawing he is working on. What a joy to see the dynamic, colorful, energetic quality of the work! His singular demeanor, his constant pursuit of inventiveness, his dazzling juxtapositions and his creativity make us realize the importance of art in this age of uncertainty.� – Richard Meier

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From the Sky to the Sea, 2010, acrylic and resin mounted on panel, 24 x 18 x 2

Âź inches | 43


A Painter Reborn: Interview With Ron Agam Liena Vayzman: After a career as a photographer, well known for large-scale photographs of flowers, portraits, and a series documenting Ground Zero on 9-11-2001, recently you were reborn as a painter. This is the first university exhibition of your paintings. How did you circle back to painting? Ron Agam: The genesis has to do with my surroundings. Being the son of a painter, that environment and discipline marked its imprint consciously and unconsciously, but it took me many years. I was 51 when I started painting, regaining the confidence when I had when I was a child. The journey that it took to get here included doubts and angst. My father [painter Yaacov Agam] had a strong artistic personality and was the founder of a movement. My journey as a photographer helped me on the way to painting - that research, intensity and press I received gave me confidence to move to a field that is more complex. LV: How do you think photographic vision persists in your paintings? RA: In painting, there is the process of observing, which photography has too – the way you frame an image, the way you look at the subject. When you analyze a composition, it’s purely visual: the relationship between then painter and the photographer becomes closer, since both are analyzing forms and shapes. The eye gets trained to look. That process is part of creative process that is not unknown to the photographer nor to the painter. The advent of digital photography pushed the envelope even closer. We have tools that were not available to photographers even 20 or 10 years ago. LV: When you were working on the large flower photographs -- which isolate a single, brightly colored flower on a white ground and enlarge every detail to human scale proportion -- were aware of the process as painterly? RA: No. Time allowed me to reflect. It is interesting that you make the correlation between the flower photographs and my paintings. I spent two years living in the world of flowers. I was looking for them, smelling them with my nose. Touching the flower and suddenly feeling the colors [of pollen] on my fingers. It offered me something that painting didn’t offer because it is a full integration of all the senses. You see that nature has created shapes and forms that are repeated in all these natural elements. All flowers have an exponential reproduction of all these shapes and forms. You ask yourself: is it a coincidence that Nature or God, whatever you want to call it, created this perfect creation? LV: When one looks inside a flower, there is the sense that it is an entire universe. When I look inside one of your paintings, I get the sense that I am looking into a universe. RA: You can take it further; look inside a microscope! LV: Or a telescope. It seems that cosmology -- stars, galaxies, sun -- are a point of reference, giving your work a cosmic dimension, with references to outer space, deep space. At the same time, the paint application and insistent shiny surfaces foreground the surface, that is, the fact that these are flat paintings. Do you intend a sense of the cosmological in your work? 44


RA: Of course. When I was a child, I asked myself who we are and what is our place in the universe . Only the mind can take you to space bigger than what the eyes can take you. This is definitely something that I spend my time thinking about. Spiritually is something that I go to, thinking about the place of humankind in space, especially now that we are getting closer to our own destruction. The flower exhibition was a conscious cry from the heart about where we are going. I took small elements of nature and blew them up to the size of a person. I was able to create a virtual world like that in the paintings. LV: How did you make paintings, such as E=MC2, in terms of your materials and techniques? RA: There is a historical rupture in these paintings. Every period in art has a correlation with advances in the tools that artists use. When prehistoric people drew drawings in Lascaux caves, they used pigments that were available at the time – charcoal, maybe blood – though they were limited. Along time, people developed techniques – printing, the lacquers in the Renaissance. Technology got more involved in art. In 1960s pop art, silkscreening became ubiquitous. Artists conceptualized the image but worked with a printer to create it. I wrote an article about what might have happened if Warhol or Picasso had a Mac. So digital art has a wealth of tools. I use both the traditional techniques of oil and acrylic, and digital tools. To make a painting like E=MC2, I used computer tools and one of the most advanced printing technologies available. Some of the paintings are created on a computer and printed onto canvas on a very high resolution printer, then covered with resin. With the resin, I add dimensionality to the work. The resulting painting is perfect, like religion, like glass – you cannot tell what you are watching. My painting is a cross pollination of everything that I experienced before I became a painter. As a child I witnessed of how my father was working. My inspiration on colors came from watching my father, where he used 200-300 shades of a color -- mesmerizing to witness. LV: This mesmerizing aspect of art, which is difficult to do, how does that relate to the spiritual or religious aspect of your work? RA: (pause) You are bringing the material world to a spiritual world, and I can’t answer that. My grandfather, Rabbi Yehoshua Gibstein, was a Kabbalist. He wrote many books on Kabbalah. As a young child, I was raised between Paris and Israel. I went to a yeshiva [Jewish school] in Paris. The spiritual element that I can relate is one that is built on a story: My grandfather used to fast three times a week. I used to ask myself, why. I liked candies, ice cream – it seemed insane [to fast], why would someone deprive themselves? Then a few times I was fasting, and realized something only you can sense by yourself: When you deprive yourself from elements of the material world like food, your soul gets elevated. You disconnect from the material. The process of fasting brings you closer to questions that require detachment from the material world. When you are in a frame of mind that permits you to think in a dimension that you are not constantly living in, your thought process will be different. So when I create my paintings, they are the fruit of creation when I am in that space. I create my work in the middle of the night. When the darkness is around me, I feel I am in another world. I am closer to that space. I have an easier time to feel spirit during darkness. As a child I remember our rabbi was telling me: ”na’aseh v’nishma,” meaning: You will do and then you will understand. That is the story of my life. LV: Twentieth century artists from Gauguin, Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian to O’Keefe and Pollock were influenced by mysticism, often on their path towards abstraction. What is the connection between mysticism and abstraction for you? Between mysticism and color? 45


RA: My father’s studio in Paris had been Gauguin’s studio. As a child, one of my favorite painters was Josef Albers. I loved the simplicity of the square. I was always drawn to abstraction and never to realism. Realism leaves a constraint in your mind. Abstraction leaves you free. Applying that to spirituality, when we talked about the cosmos and where we come from, I spread colors on canvas, I spread the picture, an order, I work with all my senses. If that is not spiritual, I don’t know what is. LV: In the context of this exhibition’s location at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, can you say something about the painting depicting a cosmic sphere covered with the stars of David ? RA: I was thinking about the relationship between my people and the cosmos. I looked at the people before me that shared my heritage of being Jewish, and saw the relationship between how many we are and how much we occupy in terms of our creativity and being on the edge of everything progressive, and my pride made me do this [painting]. It almost shows the inference of who we are. When I had my bar mitzvah, the art dealer Denise René, who was representing my father in Paris -- she was like the Pope of abstraction, she represented all the important abstract artists – she asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted an Albers for my bar mitzvah. And I got it. Years later, as a reborn painter, to come to Yale [where Josef Albers taught in the 1950s] and be living an experience connected to an artist for whom I have such admiration: it’s divine providence. © 2012 Liena Vayzman --Liena Vayzman, PhD, History of Art, Yale University. Ms Vayzman is a curator and art historian specializing in the histories of photography, the European avant-garde, and contemporary art. She currently serves as Postdoctoral Associate with the Yale Women Faculty Forum.

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Ron Agam was born in Paris in 1958 and raised in Rehovot, Israel and Paris.

From an early

age Ron was encouraged by his father, artist Yaacov Agam, to pursue art.

Ron studied at

New York University, where he was captivated by the local art scene and the stimulating environment of the artists of that time, among them Andy Warhol. Throughout his career, Ron Agam has exhibited across Europe, the Americas, and Asia, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin;

New York Historical Society,

New York; Mitsukoshi, Tokyo; and Zurich Kunsthaus, Zurich. His work has been featured in major news publications, such as Time and Newsweek . His commitment to art as well as political efforts to bridge nations demonstrates his unique position as an artist and humanitarian. In 2008, he received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the government of France, the highest honor in France. In late 2001, Ron Agam created a series based on his photographic work at Ground Zero on September 11. In 2009 he donated the entire collection of photographs to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. These works are now part of the museum’s permanent collection. Ron Agam lives and works in New York City.

Š2011 Ron Agam


(C© JOSEPH SLIFKA CENTER FOR JEWISH LIFE AT YALE WWW.SLIFKACENTER.ORG

Ron Agam - Recent works  

The Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale is proud to present an exhibition of paintings by New York based Israeli-French artist, Ron...

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