György Kepes Photography Review in the Boston Globe

Gyorgy Kepes, Labyrinth (detail), 1979. Gelatin silver print (photogram). Photograph detail courtesy Kepes Estate. Gyorgy Kepes, Untitled (detail), 1979. Gelatin silver print (photogram). Photograph detail courtesy Kepes Estate.

György Kepes Photographs: The MIT Years, 1946-1985, the second installation of Kepes’ photography at the MIT Museum, focuses on the four decades he taught at MIT. Approximately 60 works have been selected from the artist’s vintage prints, later prints, and new prints from vintage negatives. The show was recently reviewed in the Boston Globe.

György Kepes (1906-2001) was an artistic innovator, theorist, and educator whose work and ideas profoundly influenced art and design practice in the second half of the twentieth century. His work encompassed photography, painting, graphic and exhibition design, and a broad range of theoretical writing on art and design.

Kepes was at the forefront of photographic innovations that radically changed perceptions of photographic realism and the documentary function of photography. In his photographic output he experimented to great effect with camera-less images, various negative and print manipulation techniques, and methods of constructing photographic subjects with montage, collage, and plastic elements or found objects.

The exhibition is presented during the 50th anniversary of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), a predecessor of ACT, which Kepes founded.


Excerpts from ‘s “With György Kepes, Photographs as Experiments” in the Boston Globe:

The show, which runs through July 15 at the MIT Museum, is the second of two. “György Kepes Photographs: From Berlin to Chicago, 1930-1946” opened there last fall and closed earlier this month. The museum’s Gary Van Zante curated both shows. Many of the images were more traditional. The show included actual cityscapes. But already very much apparent was Kepes’s focus on the experimental, the nature of seeing, and the place of abstraction in the medium.

Kepes (1906-2001) led one of those extraordinary 20th-century lives that began in Mitteleuropa; hopscotched Western Europe, fleeing totalitarianism; and fetched up in the New World, there helping to forge modern culture. A Hungarian native, Kepes moved to Berlin (where he was László Moholy-Nagy’s assistant), London, Chicago (where he taught at the New Bauhaus ), then Cambridge. He was a fixture at MIT for decades, eventually becoming an Institute professor, the university’s highest honor.

In 1967, Kepes founded MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. The two shows are a tribute to the center’s 50th anniversary. Measured and comprehensive, they are impressive acts of institutional devotion. Along with 66 Kepes photographs and photograms (a kind of camera-less image, using light and sensitized paper), the current show includes three dozen related items: books, documentary photographs, pamphlets, audio and video of a wide-ranging interview.

Does Kepes’s work represent a higher, even ultimate, visual purity — or a squandering of artistic opportunity, a visual austerity that flirts with impoverishment? One can make a strong theoretical argument that Kepes’s images capture a visual reality that traditional photography cannot.

Read the full article here.