Jordan Belson: 5 Essential Films

jbcover1DVD (NTSC) / Region Code 0 / Color, Sound / 24.90 €

The commendable compilation as issued by the Centre for Visual Music, Los Angeles

Jordan Belson is the last of the great masters of the California Visual Music artists, which included Oskar Fischinger, Harry Smith and James Whitney…

‘Filmmaker and artist Jordan Belson creates abstract films richly woven with cosmological imagery, exploring consciousness, transcendence, and the nature of light itself. Born in Chicago in 1926, Belson studied painting at the California School of Fine Art (now San Francisco Art Institute), receiving his B.A., Fine Arts (1946) from The University of California, Berkeley. He saw films by Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren and Hans Richter at the historic Art in Cinema screening series in San Francisco in the late 1940s, and later, films by John and James Whitney. Belson was inspired to make films with scroll paintings and traditional animation techniques, calling his first films “cinematic paintings.” Curator Hilla Rebay at The Museum of Non-Objective Painting exhibited his paintings, and upon Fischinger’s recommendation awarded Belson several grants.  From 1957-1959, Belson was Visual Director for The Vortex Concerts at San Francisco’s Morrison Planetarium, a series of electronic music concerts accompanied by visual projections.  Composer Henry Jacobs curated the music while Belson created visual illusions with multiple projection devices, combining planetarium effects with patterns and abstract film footage.  His Vortex work inspired his abandoning traditional animation methods to work with manipulated projected light. He completed Allures (1961), Re-entry (1964), Phenomena (1965), Samadhi (1967), and continued with a series of abstract films.  His varied influences include yoga, Eastern philosophies and mysticism, astronomy, Romantic classical music, alchemy, Jung, non-objective art, mandalas and many more. Belson has produced an extraordinary body of over 30 abstract films, sometimes called “cosmic cinema,” also considered to be Visual Music.  He produced ethereal special effects for the film The Right Stuff (1983), and continues making fine art and films today, completing Epilogue in 2005.

— Cindy Keefer, “Jordan Belson” in Alexandra Munroe, The Third Mind; American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989 ( New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009). © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2008-09

  1. Allures (1961), 8 mins
    An early masterpiece of Non-Objective Cinema “I think of Allures as a combination of molecular structures and astronomical events mixed with subconscious and subjective phenomena – all happening simultaneously. the beginning is almost purely sensual, the end perhaps totally nonmaterial. It seems to move from matter to spirit in some way.”  “…it took a year and a half to make, pieced together in thousands of different ways….Allures actually developed out of images I was working with in the Vortex Concerts.” (Jordan Belson, quoted in Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood, p. 160-162). The soundtrack is a collaboration with Henry Jacobs. Allures was preserved with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
  2. Samadhi (1967), 6 mins

    Samadhi evokes the ecstatic state achieved by the meditator where individual consciousness merges with the Universal. “I hoped that somehow the film could actually provide a taste of what the real experience of samadhi might be like.” (from Scott MacDonald’s interview with Belson in A Critical Cinema 3). Belson adds “It is primarily an abstract cinematic work of art inspired by Yoga and Buddhism. Not a description or explanation of Samadhi.”
  3. Light (1973), 8 minsis based on the continuity of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is a ride through space and light. This is the last film for which Belson composed his own soundtrack. This film was preserved with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
  4. Fountain of Dreams (1984), 8 mins- never before released. A bold synchronization to the Transcendental music of Franz Liszt.
  5. Epilogue (2005), 12 mins
    By way of a pure Visual Music experience, the Hirshhorn Museum (Smithsonian Institution) commissioned a major new work from abstract film artist Jordan Belson, who distilled 60 years of visionary sound and images into a twelve minute videofilm, synchronized to a symphonic tone poem “Isle of the Dead” by the great lyric composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Produced by Center for Visual Music, with support from the NASA Art Program. Epilogue was installed in the Visual Music exhibition at the Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C., June – September, 2005.

Total running time 45 minutes

Photographs  (C) Jordan Belson, all rights reserved




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