Untitled, 1939
György Kepes (United States, born Hungary, 1906–2001)
16 x 19 inches
Art Acquisition Fund 1985-4-1

Trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, György Kepes was a leading teacher of visual literacy, maintaining throughout his career that vision was key to understanding the formal, social, and cultural realities of the twentieth century.

In his photograms, in which objects and materials are exposed to light over sensitized paper, Kepes transformed cast shadows and solid forms into luminescent figures and designs. Many artists made camera-less photograms during the 1920s and '30s, but Kepes was unusual in ascribing social meanings to the formal qualities of transparency, overlay, and structure. He felt that art played an important role in envisioning the interdependence of natural and manmade structures and the interrelationship of art, science, and technology. He described these conditions in overlapping registers of white, gray, and black.

Kepes promulgated his aesthetic and moral philosophy in pedagogical activities, in the manner of his friend and fellow Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy, who hired him as an assistant in Berlin and London, and in 1937 invited him to the United States to head the department of light and color at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. In 1945 Kepes began teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where in 1967 he established the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, which continues to support innovative research in the creative applications of art and science. Kepes's most important work as an educator and theorist appears in books such as Language of Vision (1944) and the numerous anthologies he edited as part of the Value + Vision series.

Text by Jordana Mendelson, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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