György Kepes was born in Selyp, Hungary and studied under painter Istvan Csók at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. Although trained in impressionism, György Kepes quickly developed an interest in more avant-garde and abstract visual styles, in particular the visual effects of light. He began experimenting with photograms – a technique where images are made by placing objects onto photosensitive paper and then exposing the paper to light. As György Kepes became increasingly interested in visual theory and technology, he used devices such as x-ray machines, electron microscopes, sonar, and radar in order to capture unseen images.
In 1930 György Kepes moved to Berlin to work as a publication, exhibition and stage designer. It was there that he was invited to join the design studio of artist and Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy, where the two collaborated for years to come. In 1937, alongside Moholy-Nagy, Kepes emigrated to the U.S. and was subsequently invited to head the curricular area in Light and Color at the New Bauhaus, Chicago, now known as the Institute of Design. In 1944 Kepes published the Language of Vision, an influential text, which outlined his theories on visual communication through photography, cinema and design. Kepes went on to teach at MIT in 1946, and in 1967 he founded MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS).
Throughout his years at MIT Kepes continued to paint as well as explore a variety of photographic techniques including: double exposures and photograms; as well as going on to develop his “photo-drawings.” In his “photo-drawings,” Kepes experimented with applying paint to glass plates, then shining light through them, using them as one would use a traditional photographic negative. Many of the resulting images embody a combination of his interest in science and technology with his passion for art and design. Kepes’ work in both the sciences and arts is considered influential and innovative, and his theories of light, design and imagery continue to be relevant today.
In 2019 the Robert Koch Gallery staged the exhibition György Kepes: New Bauhaus in America, with an accompanying 68 page monograph of the same title, which served to commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the original Bauhaus School in Germany. The exhibition was likely one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of György Kepes’s work in decades, with 48 works, plus two collaborations with M. Halberstadt. Also included in the exhibition were work from others in the New Bauhaus milieu, including mixed media works by László Moholy-Nagy (gouache and ink on paper, serigraph on paper, and vintage photogram), along with photograms by Arthur Siegel, solarized photographs by M. Halberstadt, along with experimental light and color abstractions by Henry Holmes Smith.