Born in Selyp, Hungary, in 1906, Gyorgy Kepes studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest Primarily a painter at first, in 1930 he turned from painting to film, largely in protest against social injustices, as he regarded film a more honest and effective medium of visual communication. In Berlin, where he worked with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy on films, stage sets, graphic design and exhibitions from 1930 to 1934, and later in London, from 1935-37, he experimented with the effects of light and shadow on photosensitized paper and on forms of design. . In 1937, he came to Chicago to Moholy-Nagy's New Bauhaus (later the Chicago Institute of Design) where he headed the Department of Light and Color.
In 1944, he published The Language of Vision , a summary of educational ideals and methods developed during his years of teaching at the Chicago Institute of Design. In 1946, he became a Professor of Visual Design in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, and in 1950, he resumed painting on a regular basis, together with his work in a variety of other media, including photography and design.
In 1965-66, he published the Vision and Value series, a six-volume collection of essays by natural and social scientists, architects and critics which represented a variety of disciplines examining the frontiers of the language of vision, and which approached the merging of art and technology with a humanistic eye. At its core, was his philosophy that the many specializations of contemporary men and women cut them off from each other, and his insistence on a new interdisciplinary approach that exposed some of the common underpinnings between disciplines and pointed the way towards integrating and synthesizing work in such areas as anthropology, biology, experimental psychology, relational mathematics, communication theory, linguistics and engineering.
In 1966 he proposed the formation of a closely knit work community of artists and designers who would work together with architects, city planners, scientists and engineers. In the fall of 1967, the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT was opened, and then formally dedicated in March of 1968 with a symposium on science and art. Kepes remained as Director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies until his retirement in 1974.
Kepes has, among others, held appointments as a Visiting Professor at Harvard University (1964-66), Artist-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome, (1974-75) and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT and holds an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design.