The Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) was created in 1967 by Gyorgy Kepes within the School of Architecture and Planning. Kepes was CAVS director 1967 until his retirement in 1974.
Hungarian born artist György Kepes studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. Originally trained in impressionist styles he soon felt attracted to the abstract visual language of the avant-garde and expressed a keen interest in the technological potential to depict the visible world, in particular the effects of light. Kepes became interested in filmmaking and the visual representation of motion. At the invitation of fellow Hungarian, the Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy, he moved to Berlin in 1930 and then followed Moholy-Nagy’s call to teach at the New Bauhaus and the School of Design in Chicago.
While teaching at Brooklyn College, Kepes published the Language of Vision in 1944, which set out his theories on the impact of the “new” technologies of photography, cinema, and television on visual culture.
Kepes who came to MIT in 1946, edited and published the influential seven-volume Vision and Value series in 1965-66. In 1967 he founded MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), a laboratory for interdisciplinary art practice and artistic research and the first one of its kind.
Throughout his life, Kepes continued to paint, while at the same time exploring different techniques, such as double exposure, photograms and “photo-drawings” as new ways to use light. A common avant-garde technique, the photogram, is a photographic image exposed by placing objects directly onto the surface of the photosensitive material, without the use of a camera. In contrast to the impressionist perception where things shimmer under the influence of changing illumination, photograms are true manifestations of light. The combination of ephemeral phenomena with geometric structures is an integral part of his work.
Kepes is the only visual artist of MIT’s faculty to have been awarded the rank of MIT Institute Professor.