Mid-Century Black&White Modern Photography by Gyorgy Kepes (György Kepes), Modernist Hungarian-Born Photographer

Gyorgy Kepes "Light Calligraphy" 1952, Gelatin Silver Print

Gyorgy Kepes "Microlabrynith" 1939, Gelatin Silver Print

Gyorgy Kepes "Topological Form" 1939, Gelatin Silver Print

Gyorgy Kepes "Untitled (Lens Abstraction)" 1939, Gelatin Silver Print
György Kepes: a Master of Visual Arts

Mid-Century Black&White Modern Photography by Gyorgy Kepes (György Kepes), Modernist Hungarian-Born Photographer - György Kepes (October 4, 1906 – December 29, 2001) was a Hungarian-born painter, designer, educator and art theorist. After emigrating to the U.S. in 1937, he taught design at the New Bauhaus (later the School of Design, then Institute of Design, then Illinois Institute of Design or IIT) in Chicago. In 1967 He founded the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he taught until his retirement in 1974. Kepes was born in Selyp, Hungary. At age 18, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, where he studied for four years with Istvan Csok, a Hungarian impressionist painter. In the same period, he was also influenced by the socialist avant-garde poet and painter Lajos Kassak, and began to search for means by which he could contribute to the alleviation of social injustice, especially (as he later recalled) “the inhumane conditions of the Hungarian peasantry.” Kepes gave up painting temporarily and turned instead to filmmaking. In 1930, he settled in Berlin, where he worked as a publication, exhibition and stage designer. Around this time, he designed the dust jacket for Gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim’s famous book, Film als Kunst (Film as Art), one of the first published books on film theory. In Berlin, he was also invited to join the design studio of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the Hungarian photographer who had taught at the Dessau Bauhaus. When, in 1936, Moholy relocated his design studio to London, Kepes joined him there as well.

A fortunate consequence of moving to London was that Kepes found his future wife, a 17-year-old British woman née Juliet Appleby, an artist and illustrator. By chance, he saw her on the street, introduced himself, and soon the two began to date. The following year, when Moholy agreed to become the director of a new art school in Chicago (which Moholy dubbed the New Bauhaus), Kepes was invited to join the faculty and to head a curricular area in Light and Color. Kepes asked Juliet to join him. While teaching at the Institute of Design (or New Bauhaus) from 1937 to 1943, Kepes enlarged and refined his ideas about design theory, form in relation to function, and (his own term) the “education of vision.” Kepes was lured to Brooklyn College by Russian-born architect Serge Chermayeff, who had been appointed chair of the Art Department in 1942. There he taught graphic artists such as Saul Bass. In 1944, he published Language of Vision, an influential book about design and design education. Widely used for many years as a college textbook (it had thirteen printings, in four languages), it began by acknowledging Kepes’ indebtedness to the Berlin-based Gestalt psychologists, and by asserting that “Visual communication is universal and international; it knows no limits of tongue, vocabulary, or grammar, and it can be perceived by the illiterate as well as by the literate…[The visual arts, as] the optimum forms of the language of vision, are, therefore, an invaluable educational medium” (p. 13). In part, the book was important because it predated three other influential texts on the same subject: Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design (1946), Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion (1947), and Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (1954).

In 1965-66, Kepes edited a set of six anthologies, published as a series called the Vision + Value Series. Each volume contained more than 200 pages of essays by some of the most prominent artists, designers, architects and scientists of the time. The richness of the volumes is reflected in their titles: The Education of Vision; Structure in Art and Science; The Nature and Art of Motion; Module, Symmetry, Proportion, Rhythm; Sign, Image, Symbol; and The Man-Made Object.

In his lifetime, Kepes produced other books of lasting importance, among them Graphic Forms: Art as Related to the Book (1949); Arts of Environment (1972); and The Visual Arts Today (1960). He was also a prolific painter and photographer, and his work is in major collections. In recognition of his achievements, there is a Kepes Visual Centre in Eger, Hungary. His work is finally gaining popularity. Text Source: Wikipedia.