Jordan Belson

(1926 - 2011)

Filmmaker and artist Jordan Belson created 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), and received 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 projected light. He completed Allures (1961), Re-entry (1964), Phenomena (1965), Samadhi (1967), and continued with a series of abstract films. His varied influences included yoga, Eastern philosophies and mysticism, astronomy, Romantic classical music, alchemy, Jung, non-objective art, mandalas and many more.

Belson 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 continued making fine art and films, completing Epilogue in 2005.  

-Cindy Keefer, Center for Visual Music 

Originally published in The Third Mind; American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989. Alexandra Monroe, Ed. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009. (Exhibition catalog). Published version contains edits made by Guggenheim.

c) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Biography taken from



(Jordan Belson, 1972)

A newly preserved 16mm print from the Center for Visual Music. Chakra screened at the 11th AAFF in 1973. "Usually the subjects I chose to build images around had some...