Born to in the Hungarian countryside, Kepes moved to Budapest at 8 and later studied painting with Istvan Csok from 1924-1928 at the Academy of Art. While a student, Kepes became a affiliated with painter Lajos Kassak's community of revolutionary artist known as the Munka Circle. Kassak's community was influenced by the progressive avent-garde movements of western Europe. He celebrated the ideas of the Russian Futurist, Suprematists and Constructivists and left painting to pursue the modern, urban, technology of photography, which he saw as detached from the traditional cultural baggage associated with painting. Through this period of embracing the modern age, Kepes emulated the qualities of folk art in its accessibility, legibility, its reflection on the milieu and importantly its connection to nature.
Drawing on the influences of Dada photomontages by Hannah Hoch and Raoul Hausmann and Rodchenko's photocollage illustrations of Mayakovsky's poems, Kepes explored the new possibilities and impacts. From 1928, Kepes experimented with photocollage, photomontage, photograms and film as explorations of light, a transcendent spectre. Very few of these works survive today, but represent the revolutionary impulse driving a kind of contemporary urban 'folk' art.
In the early 1930s, Kepes wanted to make a film exploring the Hungarian national hero, Rozsa Sandor, similar to Robin Hood, of the 1848 revolution.Due to political and economic circumstances, it was impossible for Kepes to begin his film and in the 1930, Moholy-Nagy invited Kepes to join him first in Berlin and later in London in 1937. Although they were great friends, to two artist rarely collaborate directly; yet, in 1937, Kepes was invited to join Moholy-Nagy in Chicago to help establish the New Bauhaus as the head of the Light and Colour Department. The department researched the potential social and psychological impact of visual elements. He sought to increase the understanding of visual organisation using many media in different contexts. He published his findings in his 1944 book, Language of Vision, which has become a canonical text of art, design and architecture students.
In 1945, Kepes was invited to establish a program in at the School of Architecture and Planning at M.I.T to study visual design. It was through his position at M.I.T. that Kepes began to explore more systematically the relationship between art and science, which was the driving force in the later years of his career. Kepes flourished as an educator, leader and artist at M.I.T.. He organised numerous exhibitions, collaborated with a variety of architects to integrate his philosophy of Visual Language to architectural structures and environments.