Gyorgy Kepes

Born Selyp, Hungary, 1906.

From 1924 to 1928 Gyorgy Kepes studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. While a student there he joined Munka, a politically active group of avant-garde artists and writers through whom he was exposed to Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, and Dada.

In search of "more advanced, dynamic," and, as he has said, "socially potent forms of visual communication," Kepes gave up painting for filmmaking in 1929. He then began corresponding with his fellow Hungarian Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who invited Kepes to join him in Berlin, which Kepes did in 1930. There he experimented with still and motion picture photography while supporting himself with exhibition, stage, and graphic design work. His still pictures, like those of many other avant-garde photographers working in Germany during this period, made dramatic use of low and high camera positions to flatten and abstract space.

In 1936 Kepes joined Moholy-Nagy in London. In 1937 he came to Chicago to head the Light and Color Workshop at the New Bauhaus (re-formed as the Chicago School of Design in 1939, and renamed the Institute of Design in 1944) under Moholy-Nagy, with whom he became a principal spokesman for Constructivism. Kepes' interest in the relationship among art, science, and technology is revealed in a series of abstract photograms of the late 1930's and 1940's which were influenced by the novel vision of nature's invisible structure as revealed by micro and macro photography.

In 1943 Kepes left the New Bauhaus; the following year he published his book Language of Vision, in which he expressed the essence of his approach to photography and teaching. In 1945 he was invited to teach visual design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he founded the Center For Advanced Visual Studies. In 1951, painting again became his primary creative focus. He also worked with exhibition and graphic design and established a distinguished career in environmental design. In 1977 he retired from teaching to devote himself more fully to his own work. He began working with photography again, making abstract photograms and cliche-verre prints. In the 1980's the Polaroid Foundation invited Kepes to use the 20 x 24 inch instant camera which resulted in a series of carefully constructed still lifes. The work of Gyorgy Kepes is represented in the permanent collections of over twenty five American museums including The Metropolitan, Modern Art and ICP in New York, Art Institute in Chicago, Museum of Fine Art Boston, LA County and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kepes passed away in December, 2001 at the age of 96.