The Pleasure of Light: Gyorgy Kepes and Frank Malina at the intersection of Science and Art

The Pleasure of Light: Gyorgy Kepes and Frank Malina at the intersection of Science and Art

Ludwig Museum—Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Frank J. Malina, “Flowers,” 1964.
Kinetic painting, Reflectodyne system, 28 x 40 cm.
Photo by Jiří Thýn.

October 10, 2010

The Pleasure of Light:
György Kepes and Frank Malina at the intersection of Science and Art

3 September – 21 November 2010

H-1095 Budapest, Komor Marcell u. 1.
T. (36 1) 555 3444
info [​at​]

While the notions of interdisciplinary philosophy date back to a renaissance synthesis of different branches of knowledge, interdisciplinary concepts and their applications have received renewed interest lately. György Kepes and Frank Malina were pioneers of these ideas already in the middle of the last century. They shared a humanist ideal which was perceived by many as utopistic. They worked ahead of their time on demolishing the previously sharp division between art and science, producing a fundamental shift and making the results accessible to common perception. They frequently collaborated with socially committed professionals aiming for an international culture of peaceful cooperation. This position was in accordance with modernist theories, including experimentation of the early twentieth century, by seeking innovative directions to chart a new, contemporary landscape in art, science, and emerging technologies. For Kepes and Malina, working with light—both in private and public space—became an important tool for improving humankind’s relation to the global environment. The creative use of light—light as a dynamic medium—preoccupied Kepes and Malina throughout their artistic career. It is a common element in their art work and forms a bridging concept for The Pleasure of Light project.

During World War II, both Kepes and Malina contributed to the US military. Kepes developed his camouflage theory into practice for the military and conducted seminars on the topic at the School of Design in Chicago, while Malina was working on rocket projects providing fundamental patents of American rocketry including the construction of the U.S.’s first successful high-altitude sounding rocket. After the end of the War, Malina became disillusioned with space research aimed mostly for military purposes, thus he moved to Paris and joined the newly founded UNESCO as Deputy Science Director. In 1953 Malina left UNESCO and from then on, focused mainly on his art projects, pioneering new technological art forms.

In his artwork, he explored issues of tension, transparency, light and movement and in the fifties began exploring kinetic art. In the process of these art experiments, he became conscious of the links to vision research by psychologists and cognitive scientists – this permeable art & science connection was clearly unrecognized at that time. In 1968, Malina founded Leonardo – a pioneering journal interweaving art and science and technology. He became the first editor of this journal, which he considered as a platform strengthening the network between scientists and artists.

Kepes, a Hungarian-born painter, designer, educator and art theorist, was stimulated early on by the experimental Kassák circle and subsequently collaborated on many projects with László Moholy-Nagy, first in Berlin and later in the US, continuing the (New) Bauhaus’ theory and practice. On arrival in North America, Kepes was invited by Moholy-Nagy to teach at the Institute of Design in Chicago (dubbed the New Bauhaus by Moholy-Nagy). In 1947 Kepes accepted an invitation to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where in1967, he founded the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, dedicated to advance new technologies and creative collaboration between scientists and artists. Kepes firmly believed that visual language conveys facts and ideas in a wider and deeper range than almost any means of communication and realized this belief through his pioneering light installations.

It is an undisputed fact that Kepes and Malina’s concepts remain vital and the influence of their accomplishments is strongly felt to this day. The Pleasure of Light exhibition aims to present their parallel concepts, through the course of their lives, products, and enduring influence. Simultaneously we wish to chart the intersections of art, science and technology, especially in the last century. The exhibition is less a chronological show of art works than an attempt to map the interdisciplinary tactical approach by two remarkable people, their notions, their works, sphere of inspiration, and lasting heritage.

curators: Nina Czeglédy and Róna Kopeczky

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Ludwig Museum—Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest
October 10, 2010

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