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  Gyorgy Kepes

Artist and photographer Gyorgy Kepes was born in Selyp, Hungary in 1906. He was a painting student at Budapest's Academy of Fine Arts from 1924 to 1928, during which time he joined a left-wing political organization known as Munka. This affiliation introduced him to an eclectic group of avant-garde writers and artists from whom he learned about Cubist, Constructivist, Dada, and Expressionist philosophies. His growing radical activism resulted in a rejection of the traditional painting preferences taught at the Academy and to embrace art forms such as photomontage and film, which he believed had more sociopolitical relevance.

In 1930 Mr. Kepes accepted an invitation by his friend Laszlo Moholy-Nagy to join him in Berlin. It was during this period where Mr. Kepes experimented with various types of visual communication, including motion picture and still photography. He manipulated the positions of his low and high cameras to create a flat and abstract space in his stills. While in Berlin, he became both friend and mentor to another young Hungarian photographer named Robert Capa. Here, his imaginative style emerged, which included evocative use of diagonals, shadows, and vantage points. Mr. Kepes' Shadow of a Policeman (1930) , with the focal point of long foot shadows, forces the viewer to contemplate the photographer's ambiguous social or political message.

After a yearlong stay in London with Mr. Moholy-Nagy, Mr. Kepes moved to the United States to head the Light and Color Workshop at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Here, he entered what he described as "the time of playful lovemaking with form and technique." This lasted until 1943, when he left to embark upon a solo photographic, teaching, and publishing career. That same year, he published Language of Vision on his photographic processes. This was the first of many books, which included The New Landscape in Art and Science (1956), The Nature and Art of Motion (1965), and The Man-Made Object (1966).

Mr. Kepes taught briefly at North Texas State Teachers College and Brooklyn College before he and his wife Juliet settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he became Professor of Visual Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, he led valuable laboratory research into the composition of visual images and they contributed to scientific discoveries. Retiring from teaching in 1977, Mr. Kepes returned to cliche-verre printmaking and experimented with abstract photography. He was invited by the Polaroid Foundation to produce a series of still lifes using their new 20 x 24-inch instant camera. During the 1980s, he received several awards and honors, and served as a longtime fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Ninety-five-year-old Gyorgy Kepes died on December 29, 2001, and left behind a prodigious output that are featured in the permanent collections of more than 25 museums throughout the United States, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Chicago's Art Institute, and San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art.

2005 Beyond Art: A Third Culture (Vienna: Wien Springer), pp. 96-97.

2012 Gyorgy Kepes (URL:

2008 Gyorgy Kepes' "Vision + Value", 1965—1972 (Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Information and Learning Company), p. 85.

1995 Language of Vision (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. 148.

2012 Metropolitan Museum of Art (URL:

Biography of Kepes on

1985 Robert Capa: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), p. 26.

2005 The Universitas Project: Solutions for a Post-Technological Society (New York: Museum of Modern Art), p. 492.

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