Joshua White (artist)

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Joshua White
JW In Concert.jpg
BornDecember 1942
New York, U.S.
EducationCarnegie Tech
USC Film School
Known forJoshua Light Show

Joshua White (born 1942) is an American artist, video maker and broadcast television director. Best known for The Joshua Light Show, a 1960s and 1970s liquid light show, his work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art[1] in New York and has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the New Museum, Hayden Planetarium, Barbican Center and the Centre Pompidou as well as many other venues.[citation needed]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in December 1942, Joshua White's parents were first generation American Jews whose families fled Russia to escape the Czarist pogroms. His father, Lawrence White ( Weiss) was a successful radio and television producer.[2][citation needed] White attended Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York's Greenwich Village, a haven for left wing intellectuals during the time of McCarthyism.[3][4] White often spent afternoons at the MoMA, where he became particularly fascinated by a small kinetic sculpture titled Vertical Sequence II, Opus 137, 1941, a "Lumia" by the self-taught artist Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968).[5][6][7]

After attending Carnegie Tech Drama School and USC Film School, White returned to New York, where he found work on exploitation films such as Girl on a Chain Gang,[8] I was a Teenage Mother[9] and Who Killed Teddy Bear?, starring Sal Mineo.

Early work[edit]

In 1965, White apprenticed himself to Bobb Goldsteinn, who presented a weekly series of loft parties [10] featuring lights, a mirror ball, slides and films all projected on multiple screens. In 1966, White formed a company with Kip Cohen, John Morris, Thomas Shoesmith and William Schwarzbach called "Sensefex".[10][11] In addition to discotheques, they designed industrial shows for Dupont, IBM, and Time-Life, and a fashion show for dress designer Tiger Morse,[12] staged in the swimming pool of the Henry Hudson Hotel.

In 1967, Sensefex was hired by the promoter Bill Graham for his new East Coast presentation "The San Francisco Scene", to be staged in Toronto and featuring Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.[13] White was exposed for the first time to what was going on in San Francisco; one attraction in particular was "Headlights", a Bay Area light show. Afterwards, Sensefex became solely focused on creating and performing light shows.[14][15]

Joshua Light Show[edit]

ZAPPA 3.jpg

Later that year White founded the Joshua Light Show. The first week of bookings was in a theater on Long Island behind Frank Zappa, Vanilla Fudge, Ravi Shankar and others.[16] By 1968 the Joshua Light Show was backing all the artists at Crawdaddy magazine's[16] weekend shows at the Anderson Theater (66 2nd Avenue). Impressed by the success of those shows, Bill Graham opened his own theater two blocks away.[5] On March 28, 1968 the Fillmore East opened with Albert King, Tim Buckley, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and at every show, The Joshua Light Show.[5][17][11][18][19][16][13]

That same year, John Schlesinger started production on Midnight Cowboy. For a key party scene, he wanted a Warhol's Factory type party and hired the Joshua Light Show to create the environment.[20][21][22]

The Joshua Light Show with the Chambers Brothers

After touring Europe with the Chambers Brothers in the summer of 1969, the Joshua Light Show performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, Fillmore at Tanglewood, and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.[23][24][25] The Joshua Light Show continued at the Fillmore, including the Jimi Hendrix New Year's Eve 1969-70 performance.[26] Meanwhile, White was negotiating his exit. Three years after the Fillmore first opened its doors, the light show changed its name to Joe's Lights, and White moved on.[6]

Joshua Television[edit]

In 1970 White invented Joshua Television, an electronic light show using large screen video magnification.[27] Along with White's partner Lee Erdman, Joshua Television provided big screen projections for many acts at Madison Square Garden, LA Forum, Hollywood Bowl, and The Spectrum in Philadelphia, and several shows for the Fillmore at Tanglewood for acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead.[24][28][29] Often, these concerts were videotaped. Network television discovered rock and roll, and in 1973 ABC started a late night rock series called In Concert,[30] produced at first by Don Kirshner, then Dick Clark and later by White himself.

In addition to rock television, White staged the first rock concert at Radio City Music Hall.[31] He created the analog projection for the Broadway show starring Harry Chapin.[32] He also directed for television the National Theater of the Deaf's version of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales,[33] narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, and a special with Alvin Ailey celebrating the music of Duke Ellington.[34][35] Both shows were nominated for Emmy Awards. White was also nominated for an Emmy for Cat Stevens' Moon & Star, A Late Night Special on ABC.[citation needed]

Broadcast television[edit]

Between 1974 and 2006, White directed a wide range of broadcast and cable television: The California Jam,[30] Neil Diamond Live in Australia,[36] The Mickey Mouse Club,[37] the Jerry Lewis Telethon,[38] Delta House,[39][40] Pirates of Penzance Live in Central Park,[41] Laurie Anderson's Oh Superman,[42][43] Max Headroom, Encyclopedia for HBO, Club MTV, Seinfeld,[44] and Inside the Actors Studio.[45]

White was executive director for the launch of the original TV Food Network[46] At the millennium, he became the senior executive in charge of production at Pseudo was a pioneer in streaming multi-channel programming on the internet.


In 1996, White began a long collaborative relationship with the artist Michael Smith.[47] Over the next two decades, they produced five large scale projects beginning with the "Mus-co"[47] exhibition at Lauren Wittels Gallery, "Open House" at the New Museum in 1999,[47] "Quinquag: Arts and Wellness Center Traveling Exhibition" in 2001 and 2013,[48] "Take Off Your Pants" in 2005 and "Mike's World: Michael Smith and Joshua White (and other collaborators) in 2007 and 2008.[47]

In 2002, White met the cartoonist and painter Gary Panter, better known as the designer of The Pee-wee Herman Show. They began collaborating on light shows, beginning the third incarnation of the Joshua Light Show, which continues to perform.[49][50] Beginning with a series of performances at the Anthology Film Archives in 2004,[51] the Joshua Light Show performs at festivals, museums and venues such as the Skirball Center,[52] Abrons Art Center,[53] the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit,[54] the Hayden Planetarium,[55] the Barbican Centre, UC Davis, and the San Francisco Exploratorium. In 2007, the light show formed a relationship with composer and curator Nick Hallett. The Joshua Light Show has also been featured in museum exhibitions such as "Visual Music" at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC and "The Summer of Love", originating at the Tate Liverpool, then travelling to Frankfurt, Vienna and the Whitney Museum in 2008. The Joshua Light Show's "Liquid Loops" was recently included in the exhibition "60-'69” at the Museum of Modern Art and was acquired by the museum for their permanent collection.[56][citation needed] In 2014 White collaborated with the artist Guy Richards Smit to create the video/installation/performance project "The Grossmalerman Show.[57]"

Personal life[edit]

White has two sisters, actress Deborah White and Dr. Rebecca Mercer-White. From 1964 to 1970 Joshua White was romantically involved with the actress Swoosie Kurtz.[47] In 1975, White met and later married his wife of thirty-five years, Broadway actress and singer Alice Playten. In 2011, Alice died of pancreatic cancer.[58][citation needed]


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  2. ^ "Lawrence White".
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  4. ^ Radosh, Ronald (2001). Commies; A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Left Left. p. 25. ISBN 978-1893554054.
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  6. ^ a b Kostelanetz, Richard (2000). Dictionary of the Avante-Gardes. p. 322. ISBN 0-02865-379-3.
  7. ^ Zinman, Gregory (June 27, 2011). "Lumia". New Yorker.
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  10. ^ a b Kostelanetz, Richard (1995). The Fillmore East, Recollections of Rock Theater. pp. Chapter 2. ISBN 0-02-871-847-X.
  11. ^ a b James L. Moody, Paul Dexter (2017). Concert Lighting, the Art and Business of Entertainment Lighting. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-315-62781-6.
  12. ^ Warhol, Andy (2006). Popism. Harcourt. p. 65.
  13. ^ a b Rothschild, Amalie R. (1999). Live at the Fillmore East. pp. 22–33. ISBN 1-56025-244-8.
  14. ^ Simms, Judith (8 August 1987). "1967, the Summer of Love". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Brightman, Carol (1999). Sweet Chaos; The Grateful Dead's American Adventure. p. 92. ISBN 0-671-01117-0.
  16. ^ a b c Glatt, John (1993). Rage & Roll, Billy Graham and the Selling of Rock. pp. 81, 89, 137. ISBN 1-55972-205-3.
  17. ^ Pouncey, Edwin (1999). "Light Laboratories". Frieze Magazine: 56–59.
  18. ^ Gordon, Alastair (2008). Spaced Out, Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties. p. 50. ISBN 1-55972-205-3.
  19. ^ Calhoun, Ada (2016). St. Marks Is Dead. pp. 135, 155, 172, 178, 189, 181, 196. ISBN 978-0-393-240-38-2.
  20. ^ Isaacson, David (August 31, 1968). "Lights Shows". Amusement Business: Pg 27.
  21. ^ "The Joshua Light Show Group". Entertainment Design. 35 Year Anniversary: pg 30. July 2002.
  22. ^ "Midnight Cowboy Party Scene".
  23. ^ Fornatele, Pete (2009). Back to the Garden (the Story of Woodstock). pp. 30, 31. ISBN 978-1-4165-9119-1.
  24. ^ a b "Bach to Hard Rock". National Geographic: pg. 215. August 1970.
  25. ^ Wilson, John S. (July 5, 1969). "34,000 Hear Rock at Newport Fete".
  26. ^ Shadwick, Keith (2003). Jimi Hendrix: Musician. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-879-30764-6.
  27. ^ Ross, Lillian (1971). "Video Magnifier". New Yorker.
  28. ^ "Videomagnifier". The New Yorker: Talk of the Town: 19. 28 August 1971.
  29. ^ "David On Stage!". 16 Magazine: 20. July 1972.
  30. ^ a b Stein, Kathi (September 1974). "TV Rock: the Inside Story With Deep Purple and Black Sabbath". Circus Raves: 44.
  31. ^ "Village Voice". February 13, 1973.
  32. ^ Barnes, Clive (February 27, 1975). "Harry Chapin Brings Songs to Broadway". New York Times: 30.
  33. ^ "A Childs Christmas in Wales".
  34. ^ Gardella, Kay (26 November 1974). "'Crusoe' & Ailey Ballet Hold Lure for the Young". New York Daily News.
  35. ^ O'Conner, John. "TV: Holiday Specials From Splendid to Poor".
  36. ^ (2008).Neil Diamond: Thank You Australia Live-1976.DVD.ASIN B001TLRVS
  37. ^ Armstrong, Jennifer (2010). Why? Because We Like You: An Oral History of then Mickey Mouse Club. ISBN 978-0-446-57434-1.
  38. ^ "Jerry!". Spy Magazine. 6 (7): 44. May 1992.
  39. ^ Stein, Ellin (2013). That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the comedy insurgents who captured the mainstream. pp. 364, 365. ISBN 978-0-446-57434-1.
  40. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1985). Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots, and Specials 1974-1984. p. 110. ISBN 0-918432-61-8.
  41. ^ Gilbert and Sullivan Broadway Theater Archive: The Pirates of Penzance.DVD.ASIN B00006RCMW
  42. ^ "Department of Film: Performance V of Performance Video". MoMA Guide. 7 September 1982.
  43. ^ "Goings On About the Town: Night Life". The New Yorker. 9 April 2007.
  44. ^ Wild, David (1998). The Totally Unauthorized Tribute (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That). Three River's Press. p. 107. ISBN 0-609-80311-5.
  45. ^ Singleton, Don (21 April 1996). "White Gave Rock Stoned-Out Hues". NY Daily News.
  46. ^ Salkin, Allen (2014). From Scratch; the Uncensored History of the Food Network. pp. 76, 82. ISBN 978-0-399-15932-9.
  47. ^ a b c d e Kurtz, Swoosie (2014). Part Swan, Part Goose. pp. 89, 91–93, 100–103. ISBN 978-0-399-16850-5.
  48. ^ Glueck, Grace (7 December 2001). "Art In Review". New York Times.
  49. ^ O'Brien, Glenn (2005). Tate Etc. Summer of Love. Tate. p. 73.
  50. ^ Brooklyn Vegan Staff (10 April 2010). "Joshua Light Show Getting Closer". Brooklyn Vegan.
  51. ^ "The Joshua Light & Gary Panter's Light Show".
  52. ^ "Rolling Stone: Rock N Roll". Rolling Stone: 20. 13 September 2012.
  53. ^ Ruscher, John (26 May 2010). "Artists in Conversation: Music: Flashing Lights - The Joshua Light Show". Bomb Magazine.
  55. ^ "Joshua Light Show at the Hayden Planetarium". Time Out New York. ISSN 1084-550X. June 2011. templatestyles stripmarker in |volume= at position 1 (help)
  56. ^ "From the Collection".
  57. ^ "Full Episodes". Grossmalerman. Retrieved 2017-08-08.
  58. ^ "Alice Playten Obituary".