Authors@MIT | John R. Blakinger: Gyorgy Kepes @ The MIT Press Bookstore
Oct 21 @ 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Please join the MIT Press Bookstore in welcoming author John R. Blakinger to discuss his book, Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus.

Gyorgy Kepes (1906–2001) was the last disciple of Bauhaus modernism, an acolyte of László Moholy-Nagy and a self-styled revolutionary artist. But by midcentury, transplanted to America, Kepes found he was trapped in the military-industrial-aesthetic complex. In this first book-length study of Kepes, John Blakinger argues that, by opening the research laboratory to the arts, Kepes established a new paradigm for creative practice: the artist as technocrat. First at Chicago’s New Bauhaus and then for many years at MIT, Kepes pioneered interdisciplinary collaboration between the arts and sciences—what he termed “interthinking” and “interseeing.” Kepes and his colleagues—ranging from metallurgists to mathematicians—became part of an important but little-explored constellation: the Cold War avant-garde.

Blakinger traces Kepes’s career in the United States through a series of episodes: Kepes’s work with the military on camouflage techniques; his development of a visual design pedagogy; the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), an art-science research institute established by Kepes at MIT in 1967; and the Center’s proposals for massive environmental installations that would animate the urban landscape.

Generously illustrated, drawing on the vast archive of Kepes’s papers at Stanford and MIT’s CAVS Special Collection, this book supplies a missing chapter in our understanding of midcentury modern and Cold War visual culture.

John R. Blakinger studies modern and contemporary American art, with a focus on the relationship between aesthetics and politics, and is particularly interested in the intersection of the visual arts with science and technology. He is the 2018–2019 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art at the University of Oxford. He comes to Oxford from the University of Southern California, where he has been in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities since 2016.