Lightbox Film Center Celebrates Legacy of Ed Emshwiller in First-of-its-Kind Retrospective Exhibit

Lightbox Film Center, Philadelphia’s premier exhibitor of film and moving image art, today announced the opening of, “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller.” Considered to be one of the most significant moving image artists of the 20th century, Ed Emshwiller’s prolific body of work across film, video and visual art will finally be celebrated in a major monographic exhibition.

Running October 18 – December 7, 2019, “Dream Dance” will feature the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, “Dance Chromatic” (1959) and “Lifelines” (1960). Both titles will be screened at Lightbox along with 17 other Emshwiller films – many of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia. An extensive gallery show at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery will feature Emshwiller’s paintings, illustrations, videos, and additional archival materials. A series of panels with scholars, historians, and Emshwiller’s family members and contemporaries will further contextualize his work and provide a new scholarship in an accompanying catalog.

“Unlike his peers such as Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits and Michael Snow, Ed Emshwiller has not been the subject of a major retrospective since his passing in 1990. As one of the most significant moving image artists of the 20th century and true pioneer in the space this was shocking to me,” said Jesse Pires, Chief Curator at Lightbox Film Center. “Dream Dance will be the first major exhibition exploring the many facets of Emshwiller’s work, keeping in line with Lightbox’s mission to present underseen and underappreciated film and video artists.”

Primarily known as a filmmaker, Emshwiller’s (1925–90) career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial and science fiction illustration, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers. As an illustrator, he won five Hugo awards including the inaugural honor in 1953. Later, in the 1970s and 80s, he began to explore his interest in film and would go on to become one of the first filmmakers to take on video for the creation of documentary and experimental film.

Emshwiller’s video works have been screened internationally at festivals and institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art; United States Cultural Centers in Japan and Paris; International Film Festival in Rotterdam; Berlin Film Festival; and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. His pioneering efforts exploring time, movement and space continue to influence cutting-edge artists today, including Pixar’s co-founder, Alvy Ray Smith with whom he produced the three-minute groundbreaking 3D computer-generated video, “Sunstone.”

Smith reflects on his work with Emshwiller as, “this collaboration [Sunstone] was the most important of my artistic life, Ed serving as my mentor.”

An opening gallery reception of “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller,” will take place at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery on Friday, October 18 with additional screenings and panel discussions happening through December 7, 2019. For complete exhibit details including information on screening dates, panel discussions, and admission prices, please visit or call 215-895-6590.

“Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller” has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

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