A Finding Aid to the Gyorgy Kepes papers, 1909-2003, bulk 1935-1985, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.kepegyor
Creators:
Kepes, Gyorgy, 1906-2001
Dates:
1909-2003
bulk 1935-1985
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
21.2 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of Hungarian-born artist, art theorist, and educator, Gyorgy Kepes, measure 21.2 linear feet and date from 1909-2003, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1935-1985. The papers document Kepes's career as an artist and educator, and as founder of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), through biographical material, correspondence, writings by Kepes and others, project files, exhibition files, printed material, sketchbooks, artwork, sound recordings and motion picture films, and photographic material.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of Hungarian-born artist, art theorist, and educator, Gyorgy Kepes, measure 21.2 linear feet and date from 1909-2003, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1935-1985. The papers document Kepes's career as an artist and educator, and as founder of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), through biographical material, correspondence, writings by Kepes and others, project files, exhibition files, printed material, sketchbooks, artwork, sound recordings and motion picture films, and photographic material.
Correspondence provides a wide range of documentation on all aspects of Kepes's career including his collaborations and friendships with artists, architects, writers, scientists, and fellow educators including Rudolf Arnheim, Alexander Calder, Henry Dreyfuss, Charles and Ray Eames, Clive Entwhistle, R. Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, S. W. Hayter, Jean Hélion, Laszlo and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Lev Nussberg, Robert Osborn, George Rickey, Saul Steinberg, Kenzo Tange, Robert Jay Wolff, and Jekabs Zvilna. Correspondence also documents the evolution of Kepes's vision for the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, which he established in 1967, and his subsequent leadership of CAVS at M.I.T. Records document his collaborations with students and fellows including Lowry Burgess, Jack Burnham, Piotry Kowalski, Margaret Mead, Otto Piene, Alan Sonfist, Athena Tacha, Vassilakis Takis, Philip Thiel, Harold Tovish, and Wen-Ying Tsai. Correspondents also include people who contributed to Kepes's Vision + Value series, including Michael Blee, Kazuhiko Egawa, Jean Hélion, and others. Correspondence includes three motion picture films, including what appears to be an early version of Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames.
Writings include notes and manuscripts for articles and essays in which Kepes explored ideas evident in his books The New Landscape and Language of Vision, and submitted to publications such as Daedalus, Design, Domus, and Leonardo. Writings also include manuscripts for lectures, and draft manuscripts documenting Kepes's collaborative work with fellow M.I.T. professor Kevin Lynch on city planning, which culminated in Lynch's research project "The Perceptual Form of the City."
A small group of "Times Square Project" files documents Kepes's proposal for a lightscape in Times Square that was ultimately not realized.
Teaching files include sound recordings of circa five symposia and discussions held at M.I.T., the Illinois Institute of Technology, and elsewhere, some featuring Kepes and including Philip Johnson, Eero Saarinen and others.
Exhibition files include documentation of three exhibitions, including Light as a Creative Medium (1968) and a Kepes exhibition at Saidenberg Gallery (1968). They also record Kepes's involvement in designing the 1968 Triennale di Milano.
Printed material includes a substantial collection of announcements and catalogs for Kepes exhibitions, lectures, and other events, and includes catalogs and announcements for scattered exhibitions of his wife, artist and illustrator, Juliet Kepes. Clippings from newspapers and magazines include articles about Kepes, and contain some copies of published writings and designs by him. The series also includes sound recordings and motion picture films containing original material for a CBS television series "The 21st Century," probably as part of the episode "Art for Tomorrow," which appear to feature M.I.T. fellows Jack Burnham and Vassilakis Takis. Another motion picture film of an Italian documentary "Operazione Cometa" can also be found here.
Two sketchbooks contain pen and ink and painted sketches by Kepes. Artwork by Kepes includes original poster designs, caricatures, and many pencil, and pen and ink sketches and paintings on paper and board, including designs for stained glass. Artwork by others includes ink on mylar sketches by D. Judelson and Konstancija Brazdys, and a sketch by Harold Tovish. Also found are circa seventeen motion picture films and four sound recordings, the majority of which are untitled and by unidentified artists, but include films by M.I.T. fellows Otto Piene, Vassilakis Takis, Philip Thiel, Harold Tovish, Wen-Ying Tsai, and others.
Photographs are of Kepes, Juliet Kepes, and other family members; students, colleagues, and friends, including R. Buckminster Fuller, Serge Chermayeff, Harry Bertoia, Varujan Boghosian, Alexander Calder, Marchall McLuhan, Margaret Mead, Herbert Read, I. A. Richards, Saul Steinberg, and William Wurster; and of Kepes in his studio. There are also photos of exhibition installations in which Kepes's work appeared or which he designed, and photos of his artwork and of images for publications which he wrote or edited. Photos by others include artwork by established artists and work by students, as well as photographs arranged by subjects such as cityscapes, forms found in nature, light patterns, mechanical devices, and photomicrographs. A collection of lantern slides with similar content to the photos of artwork and photos by subject is also found in this series and includes a lantern slide of Picasso creating a design with light.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as eleven series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1940-circa 1980 (0.25 linear feet; Boxes 1, 28)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1936-1984 (5.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-7, 28 OV 33, FCs 39-41)
  • Series 3: Interviews and Transcripts, 1954-1970 (4 folders; Box 7)
  • Series 4: Writings and Notes, 1948-circa 1980s (1.4 linear feet; Boxes 7-8, 28)
  • Series 5: Times Square Project Files, 1972-1974 (6 folders; Box 9)
  • Series 6: Teaching Files Sound Recordings, circa 1953-1972 (0.7 linear feet; Box 9)
  • Series 7: Exhibition Files, 1958-1973 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 9-10)
  • Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1922-1989 (3.6 linear feet; Boxes 10-12, 28-29, OVs 35, 37, FCs 42-49)
  • Series 9: Sketchbooks, circa 1940s-circa 1970s (2 folders; Box 12)
  • Series 10: Artwork and Moving Images, circa 1924-2003 (2.5 linear feet; Boxes 12, 13, OVs 33-36, 38, FCs 50-62)
  • Series 11: Photographs, 1909-1988 (10.4 linear feet; Boxes 13-32)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Painter, designer, art theorist, and educator, Gyorgy Kepes (1906-2001), was born in Selyp, Hungary, and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest. He worked with Moholy-Nagy in Berlin and London before joining him at the New Bauhaus (later the Chicago Institute of Design) in 1937.
Kepes taught courses at the New Bauhaus from 1937 to 1945, and published Language of Vision in 1944, summarizing the educational ideas and methods he had developed during his time at the institute. In 1946 he accepted a teaching position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) where he initiated a program in visual design.
In 1956 Kepes published The New Landscape in Art and Science, in which he presented images from nature that were newly accessible due to developments in science and technology, and explored his ideas for a common language between science and the visual arts.
In 1965, these ideas were apparent in Kepes's proposal of an expanded visual arts program at M.I.T., which would "build new as yet undetermined bridges between art and engineering and science," according to the minutes of an M.I.T. Art Committee meeting in March of that year. Kepes's vision dovetailed with M.I.T.'s vested interest in promoting the arts, and faculty and administrators were open to the argument that "The scientific-technical enterprise needs schooling by the artistic sensibilities." In 1967, they appointed Kepes Director of M.I.T.'s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS).
Kepes retired from the regular faculty at M.I.T. in 1967, to focus on his role as director of CAVS, where he worked to provide artists with opportunities for exploring new artistic forms on a civic scale through a working dialogue with scientists and engineers. Early fellows of the center included Maryanne Amacher, Joan Brigham, Lowry Burgess, Jack Burnham, Piotry Kowalski, Otto Piene, Vassilakis Takis, and Wen-Ying Tsai.
In 1965-1966 Kepes edited a six-volume series entitled Vision + Value, published by George Braziller, Inc. Each volume featured essays that centered around a core theme: The Education of Vision; Structure in Art and Science; The Nature and Art of Motion; Module, Symmetry, Proportion, Rhythm; Sign, Image, Symbol; and Man-Made Object. Contributions came from prominent artists, designers, architects, and scientists of the time including Rudolf Arnheim, Saul Bass, Marcel Breuer, John Cage, R. Buckminster Fuller, Johannes Itten, Marshall McLuhan, and Paul Rand.
Kepes experimented widely with photography, producing abstract images through the application of fluids and objects to photographic paper. He also took commercial work throughout his career, producing designs for all kinds of objects, including books and stained glass windows for churches. He returned to painting in the 1950s, and his development as a painter continued throughout his career at M.I.T., where he remained until his retirement in 1974, and beyond. His paintings, which were abstract and often incorporated organic shapes and hints of landscapes, can be found in museums such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Kepes received many awards during his lifetime, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1958); the Gold Star Award of the Philadelphia College of Art (1958); the National Association of Art Colleges Annual Award (1968); the California College of Art Award (1968); and the Fine Arts Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1968). In 1973 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an associate member, and became a full academician in 1978. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
All of the sound recordings in the collection were digitized for research access and are available at Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original reels for the archival notations on them, but original reels are not available for playback due to fragility.
Some of the motion picture films were transferred to VHS in 2003 with a grant from the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
Portions of the collection and material lent for microfilming are available on 35mm microfilm reels 1211 and 5303-5321 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Processing Information
The collection received a preliminary level of arrangement after donation and was microfilmed on reels 5303-5321. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016-2018 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The collection was processed and described in a finding aid by Stephanie Ashley in 2018.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel 1211) including ninety-eight letters to Kepes from colleagues, 1946-1974. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Author
Stephanie Ashley
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gyorgy Kepes lent papers for microfilming in 1974 and donated material to the Archives of American Art in a series of gifts between 1974 and 1993.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate copies requires advance notice.
Conditions Governing Use
Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce must be obtained from Juliet Kepes Stone or Imre Kepes.
Preferred Citation
Gyorgy Kepes papers, 1909-2003, bulk 1935-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Additional papers of Gyorgy Kepes can be found at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Visual Studies Special Collection.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Art -- Philosophy Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists' studios--Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
City planning Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Educators--Massachusetts--Cambridge Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Times Square (New York, N.Y.) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Caricatures Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arnheim, Rudolf Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bertoia, Harry Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blee, Michael Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Boghosian, Varujan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brazdys, Konslancija Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burgess, Lowry, 1940- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burnham, Jack, 1931- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chermayeff, Serge, 1900- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dreyfuss, Henry, 1904-1972 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eames, Charles Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eames, Ray Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Egawa, Kazuhiko Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Entwhistle, Clive Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hayter, Stanley William, 1901-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hélion, Jean, 1904-1987 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Johnson, Philip, 1906-2005 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kepes, Juliet Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kowalski, Piotry Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lynch, Kevin, 1918-1984 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Moholy-Nagy, Sibyl, 1905- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Moholy-Nagy, László, 1895-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nusberg, Lev, 1937- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Osborn, Robert Chesley, 1904-1994 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Piene, Otto, 1928- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Richards, I. A. (Ivor Armstrong), 1893-1979 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rickey, George Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saarinen, Eero, 1910-1961 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sonfist, Alan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tacha, Athena, 1936- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Takis, Vassilakis Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tange, Kenzō, 1913- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Thiel, Philip Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Steinberg, Saul Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tovish, Harold, 1921-2008 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tsʻai, Wen-ying, 1928- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wolff, Robert Jay, 1905- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wurster, William Wilson Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Zvilna, Jēkabs, 1913-1997 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Center for Advanced Visual Studies Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illinois Institute of Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saidenberg Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Triennale di Milano (Milan, Italy) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
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Victor Building, Suite 2200
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https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
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