Jordan Belson

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Jordan Belson (June 6, 1926 – September 6, 2011)[1] was an American artist and abstract cinematic 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 especially noted the influence of films by Fischinger, Richter and McLaren on his work (Keefer, 2008). [2] Belson's first abstract film was Transmutation (1947), now lost. A few of his films were screened in later screenings of the "Art in Cinema" series. Following these early films, Belson made a few films with his scroll paintings.

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 Belson's 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. [3]

Belson also created special effects for The Right Stuff (1983). [4]

His last 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 [5] 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), Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe, Germany), Rotterdam Film Festival, European Media Art Festiva] (Osnabruck, Germany), Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane, Australia), Harvard Film Archive, Northwest Film Center, MOCA (Los Angeles), TIFF (Toronto), and other venues. [6]

Belson died of heart failure at his home in San Francisco on September 6, 2011. He was 85.[1] 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. [7]


  • Transmutation (1947) – lost
  • Improvisation #1 (1948) – lost
  • Mambo (1951)
  • Caravan (1952)
  • Bop-Scotch (1952)
  • Mandala (1953)
  • Raga (1958)
  • Séance (1959)
  • Allures (1961) 8" short
  • 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)

[8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fox, Margalit. "Jordan Belson, Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 85". New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
  2. ^ Belson bio-CVM
  3. ^ Keefer, Cindy. 'Raumlichtmusik' – Early 20th Century Abstract Cinema Immersive Environments. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Creative Data Special Issue. Leonardo/ISAST, The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, and MIT Press. October 2009. PDF.
  4. ^ Fog City Mavericks-Part 3 of 5 on Vimeo
  5. ^ CVM
  6. ^ Center for Visual Music Belson. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  7. ^ Center for Visual Music Belson. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  8. ^ Official Belson Research pages at CVM, include Biographies, Bibliography, Filmography, Film Notes
  9. ^ Jordan Belson [1] Bibliography at Center for Visual Music library, contains links to articles online
  10. ^ Jordan Belson, Cosmic Cinema and The San Francisco Museum of Art by Cindy Keefer, at SFMOMA Open Space blog. October, 2010.
  11. ^ MacDonald, Scott. "Interview with Jordan Belson", A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)
  12. ^ Fox, Margalit. Jordan Belson, Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 85. New York Times (September 11, 2011).
  13. ^ Moritz, William. [2] "Jordan Belson, Last of the Great Masters", Animation Journal (Orange, CA: Chapman University, 1999), online at CVM Library.
  14. ^ Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943–1978 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979) (Reprinted, second and third editions)
  15. ^ Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970)
  16. ^ 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).
  17. ^ 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.

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