Jordan Belson

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Jordan Belson (June 6, 1926 – September 6, 2011)[1] was an American artist and filmmaker who created nonobjective, often spiritually oriented, abstract films spanning six decades.


Belson was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Belson studied painting at the University of California, Berkeley. He saw the "Art in Cinema" screenings at the San Francisco Museum of Art beginning in 1946. The films screened at this series inspired Harry Smith, Belson and others to produce abstract films. Belson's first abstract film was Transmutation (1947). Some of his early films were made with his scroll paintings. Belson's work was screened later as part of the "Art in Cinema" series.

He was the recipient of a grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which later became the Guggenheim (Oskar Fischinger recommended him to the MoNOP curator Hilla von Rebay). Much of his work is meant to evoke a mystical or meditative experience.

In 1957 he began a collaboration with sound artist Henry Jacobs at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco, California that lasted until 1959. Together they produced a series of electronic music concerts accompanied by visual projections at the Planetarium, the Vortex Concerts. Belson as visual director programmed kinetic live visuals, and Jacobs programmed electronic music and audio experiments. This is a direct ancestor of the 60s light shows and the "Laserium"-style shows that were popular at planetaria later in the century. The Vortex shows involved projected imagery, specially prepared film excerpts and other optical projections. Not just an opportunity to develop new visual technologies and techniques, the sound system in the planetarium enabled Belson and Jacobs to create an immersive environment where imagery could move throughout the entire screen space, and sound could move around the perimeter of the room.

Belson also created special effects for The Right Stuff (1983).

His latest film "Epilogue" was commissioned for the Visual Music exhibition at the Hirshhorn/Smithsonian, and completed in 2005. It was produced by Center for Visual Music [1] with support from the NASA Art Program. The New York Times described it as having "lush and misty optics".

Belson's films are represented by Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles, where preservation and digitization is ongoing. A special Jordan Belson Retrospective has been presented by CVM at Tate Modern (London), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum (New York), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, EYE Film Institute (Amsterdam), Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Karlsruhe, Germany), Rotterdam Film Festival, European Media Art Festival (Osnabruck, Germany), Queensland Gallery of Art (Brisbane, Australia), Harvard Film Archive, Northwest Filmforum, MOCA Los Angeles, TIFF Toronto, and other venues.

Belson died of heart failure at his home in San Francisco on September 6, 2011.[1] He was 85. CVM and Pacific Film Archive presented a special Memorial screening at PFA, Berkeley, California on October 19, 2011, a version of the CVM Retrospective program. CVM is currently booking this Memorial Retrospective [2]; see schedule on their site.


  • Transmutation (1947) – lost
  • Improvisation #1 (1948) – lost
  • Mambo (1951)
  • Caravan (1952)
  • Bop-Scotch (1952)
  • Mandala (1953)
  • Raga (1958)
  • Séance (1959)
  • Allures (1961)
  • LSD (1962) Unfinished film. According to Belson it should not be on his filmography
  • Re-entry (1964)
  • Phenomena (1965)
  • Samadhi (1967)
  • Momentum (1968)
  • Cosmos (1969)
  • World (1970)
  • Meditation (1971)
  • Chakra (1972)
  • Light (1973)
  • Cycles (1975) made with Stephen Beck
  • Music of the Spheres (1977)
  • Infinity (1980)
  • Quartet (1982)
  • Fountain of Dreams (1984)
  • Northern Lights (1985)
  • Mysterious Journey (1997)
  • Bardo (2001)
  • Epilogue (2005)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fox, Margalit. "Jordan Belson, Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 85". New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2011. 
  • Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943–1978 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979) (Reprinted, second and third editions)
  • Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970)
  • Keefer, Cindy. "Cosmic Cinema and The Vortex Concerts." Cosmos: The Search for the Origins. Arnauld Pierre, Ed. (Madrid: El Umbral/Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2008).
  • Keefer, Cindy. Jordan Belson (Biography). The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia. 1860–1989. Alexandra Monroe, Ed. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009). Exhibition catalog.

Secondary source[edit]

  • Brougher, Strick, et al. Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900 (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005) contains little info not found elsewhere, but some good images
  • Keefer, Cindy. Space Light Art: Early Abstract Cinema and Multimedia, 1900–1959. White Noise. Ernest Edmonds, Ed. (Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Moving Image, 2005). Revised version is online at CVM Library.

External links[edit]

  • Jordan Belson DVD – May 2007 release
  • Keefer, Cindy. [5]'Raumlichtmusik' – Early 20th Century Abstract Cinema Immersive Environments. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Creative Data Special Issue. Leonardo: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, and MIT Press. October 2009. PDF.
  • Jordan Belson at IMDB