Joshua Light Show

 
 

Joshua White was born and raised in New York City. He studied theater and design at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and filmmaking at the University of Southern California.

After college, he returned to New York and became interested in multimedia, especially creating lighting and slide shows. Soon thereafter he started designing environments for the first generation of NY discotheques.

In 1967, he founded the Joshua Light Show, a group of artists improvising with projections in live concert venues. While much of their work was created for classical music and jazz performances, a major turning point came with the opening of Bill Graham’s Fillmore East on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the spring of 1968.

The Joshua Light Show were resident artists at Fillmore East and performed live behind all the major musical artists of the time: Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix. They also performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and other major music venues in New York.

During this same period, JLS toured Europe and created the legendary party scene for John Schlesinger’s Academy Award winning film Midnight Cowboy. After performing at Woodstock and observing the explosive growth of audiences for popular music, White invented Joshua Television, an electronic light show using large screen video projection. Within a short time, network television discovered rock and roll and White segued into a full-time career as a TV director.

For thirty years thereafter, White worked as producer and director on an eclectic range of shows such as Seinfeld, The Jerry Lewis Telethon, The Max Headroom Show, Club MTV, New York Philharmonic Young Peoples Concerts, and Inside the Actors Studio.

He received an Emmy nomination for an ABC special on Cat Stevens. In addition, White continued to work with art and artists; he directed Laurie Anderson’s video to “O Superman,” designed lighting effects for the film, The Rose, and staged the first rock concert ever at Radio City Music Hall.

In recent years, the Joshua Light Show has received renewed attention in the art world.

White collaborated with artist Gary Panter to recreate aspects of his legendary light shows at The Anthology Film Archives (2004), which has led to many more collaborations, including installations at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2012) and ArtSpace, a permanent installation for the Taubman Museum in Roanoke, VA (2009).

Joshua Light Show was featured in the exhibition, Visual Music: Synesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900, organized by the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., (2005), which also toured to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

In 2006, the Tate Museum/Liverpool included the Joshua Light Show in their Summer of Love exhibition, which toured throughout Europe and in the summer of 2008 was on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

The current light show has performed at The Hayden Planetarium, The Exploratorium in San Francisco as well as sold out performances in Berlin, Mexico City, London, Tanglewood and at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Their work is in the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 
 

I was working in light during the mid-sixties mostly for discotheques and fashion shows. At the same time I was following the great music and earlier examples of entertainment light art.

Specifically The Electric Circus in New York (Anthony Martin) which opened in 1967 and the Fillmore/Avalon Ballroom light shows of Bill Ham and Headlights (Glenn McKay & Jerry Abrams) in San Francisco.

Influences would be The Electric Circus in New York (Anthony Martin) which opened in 1967 and the Fillmore/Avalon Ballroom light shows of Bill Ham and Headlights (Glenn McKay & Jerry Abrams) in San Francisco.

Glenn McKay taught me liquid basics after we had the good luck to work with Headlights in Toronto, August 1967

As Joshua Light Show in 1968-1970, we worked with almost every every band performing except The Rolling Stones.

We have worked with Glenn McKay's Headlights, Steve Pavlovsky - Liquid Light Lab, Drippy Eye Projections (Curtis Godino & Chaz Lord) Rudy Stern, Gary Panter (Several Collaborations), Wizzard Light Show (Richard Young) Mad Alchemy (Lance Gordon), Android Light Show, Lights Out Light Show (Donovan Drummond), Pig Light Show (Marc Rubinstein), Christine Marie, Stranger Liquids (Andrew Carnagie Platt, Brotherhood of Light (Chris Samardicth and many, many more.

Where did the name come from?

I wanted to make it clear who we were and what we did. This time was the start of giving everything an obtuse name. After several ideas, telling the truth seemed the best one. I named the show after myself.

Also, Joshua was not as common a name then as it is now.

We started out using Overhead and Kodak Carousel projectors as they were readily available at the time but over time, especially after finding a full time gig at Fillmore East, we upgraded the original projectors eventually creating our own more powerful ones. We had the advantage of rear projecting which made it easy to try our new ideas.

We added other ideas such as Lumia which is a technique where all light is bounced off variable reflective filters before hitting the screen.

We also experimented with pure light and color sources. Again, because of the rear projection screen we could wave bare light bulbs around to see the effect.

The Fillmore had two shows a night, four a weekend. Between the first show and the last we experimented and grew enormously. The light show group consisted of several artists each with a sphere of influence. I was the mixer who decided when to put images on the screen.

WE ended up with an infinite number of projectors (I'm not saying this to sound arrogant, JLS literally builds projectors from many components during a performance.

Each artist brings several distinct skills. We often invite other light shows to perform with us

I think you can see that Joshua Light Show is a big story. I retired from large performances in 2017 just before my 75th birthday and the 50th Anniversary of our first show.

My projects now are smaller and more personal, but nothing gets very far from the light.

I post the daily cover picture on The Psychedelic Light Show Facebook group. I also encourage everyone and gladly offer criticism and advice to anyone who asks.

I believe there are no light show secrets.

Joshua White - July 2020

 
 
Joshua Light Show

March 25th 1969, UK

 
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Early Joshua Light Show

 
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Joshua Light Show 2017 Group Photo

 
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Ana - Joystick

 
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Behind the screen

 
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Behind the screen

 
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Alyson

 
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Boss Hogg

 
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Doug

 
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Joshua Light Show Mineola 1967

 
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Joshua White & Bill Graham

 
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Behind the screen

 
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Supersilient

 
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Frank Zappa 1967

 
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Tery Reid - Fillmore

 
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Janis Joplin 1969

 
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Nicolas Jaar

 
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Ana with Overheads

 
 
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