80 Washington Square East, NYU

Ken Jacobs

Up The Illusion

April 15 – November 26, 2023

Broadway Windows gallery

80WSE proudly presents Up The Illusion, a momentous survey exhibition celebrating the 90th birthday of Ken Jacobs, one of our most iconic and indefatigable moving image artists. Curated by artist and writer Andrew Lampert, this street level exhibition features a panoramic selection of Jacobs’ nearly 70 years of pioneering films and digital videos in the Broadway Windows gallery located on the corner of Broadway and E. 10th Street. 

Dating from the mid-1950s through today, and unfolding over the course of seven months, the thematically organized works displayed in each window will change three times over the course of the exhibition in order to spotlight the wildly divergent aspects of the artist’s prolific output. This is the first exhibition to feature Jacobs’ largely unseen drawings alongside his critically acclaimed moving image works. Experienced side-by-side, the painterly concerns and qualities at the heart of Jacobs’ distinctive multimedia approach are brought firmly into the foreground.

Called “one of the most extraordinary unknown personalities in the history of American movies” by critic J. Hoberman, Ken Jacobs (b.1933) is a key figure in the history of experimental cinema. A native New Yorker, Jacobs studied painting with Hans Hofmann in the early 1950s before embracing filmmaking and performance as his primary mediums. A central artist in the 1960s underground film movement, Jacobs’ decades of restless output includes more than forty short and feature length motion pictures. Working in tandem with his wife, Flo, he has created dozens of live performance pieces with their self-invented double 16mm “Nervous System” projection apparatus and nearly supernatural “Nervous Magic Lantern.” Since embracing video in 1999, he has produced well over 150 space, time and perception bending pieces that transpose his formal and 3D explorations into the digital dimension. 

This website serves as a cinematheque-style extension of the exhibition where viewers can watch all the works currently displayed in the Broadway Windows on their own viewing devices. QR codes are provided on the gallery windows for all audiences. Some videos contain strobe effect sequences and flickering light.

Curated by Andrew Lampert   
Commissioned by Howie Chen. Produced by Jon Huron, 80WSE. 

XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX (2021), a recent feature length work by Jacobs, will screen on July 25 with the artist in person at Light Industry in Brooklyn. Full details will be announced in early summer.     

Special thanks to Flo Jacobs, Aza and Diaz Jacobs, Nisi Jacobs, Antoine Catala, Viktor Timofeev, Jason Burch, Christine Burgin, Lili Chin, Jessica Caroline, Kevin Kelly, Zaq Landsberg, John Matturri, Amy Lampert, Melinda Shopsin.  

Broadway Windows gallery is a series of five street-level display windows located at the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street. The installations can be viewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

To view even more films and videos by Jacobs, and to learn more about his work in general, please visit: 


Installation view of all six windows at night.
Installation of three windows at night.
Installation of three windows at night.
Installation of three windows at night.
Installation view of two monitors in the window.
Installation view featuring three monitors in the window, staggered in size. On the bottom, a small monitor, a bit higher up on the left, is a similarly sized monitor. In the back on the right, higher up, is a larger flat screen monitor.
Installation view of the exhibition featuring two monitors on the left, staggered so that the larger monitor is high up towards the left, while the small monitor is low, towards the right. On the right side of the image, two drawings hang vertically on top of one another. They are created in black and white and feature abstract lines and shapes.
Installation view from outside the windows featuring three prints hung vertically on the left side of the window, a video installation in the center, and another two prints hung vertically on the right.
Image of a piece from the exhibition featuring several colored lines. From left to right, the first line is a short, small red line, then a short blue light then a large red streak and another large red streak and then a short red streak against a white background.
Image from the exhibition featuring four black streaks vertically parallel to one another against a white background. The streaks are organized from left to right, with a small thin line, a thicker black line, a thick line that tapers into a smaller line towards the bottom and a thick line with a break at the top.
Installation view of a work in the exhibition featuring vertical black streaks against a white background arranged in the order of thin, two thick, and then a small faint streak.
Image of a work in the exhibition featuring four black streaks across a white background vertically.
Image of a work in the exhibition featuring a white background with two random looking black streaks vertically across the page.
Image of a cartoon sketch from the exhibit.
Image of a cartoon sketch from the exhibit featuring a figure on an old fashioned car as well as a figure riding a camel.
Image of a cartoon sketch from the exhibit.
Image of various abstract black markings against a white background.
untitled, 2021-2022
Image of several black printed shapes, arranged in a vertical parallel pattern across a white background. The shapes consist of a thick black line and then a smaller organic black shape on top like a dotted i.
untitled, 2021-2022
Image from the installation featuring nine black lines and shapes in a row on a white background. The lines are of various lengths, and thicknesses, but are somewhat parallel to one another.
untitled, 2021-2022
Image from the exhibition of white and black linear shapes alternating across a white background. Starting with white, then a skinny black line from top to bottom of the entire page, then a white break, then a thick jagged black line, then a white space, then a very thin black line, then a white space, and another jagged black line, then a white space, a thin black line with a short break it in near the top of the page, then a white space, a black, jagged thick line, a white space and then lastly a thin black line followed by a white space.
untitled, 2021-2022
Image from the exhibition featuring two large white circle shapes with black centers. They are stretched out into almost oval shapes against a black background.
untitled, 2021-2022
Image from the installation featuring a monotone sketch of a figure's head. The figure looks straight at the viewer, and is harshly defined with intense shadow and light.
untitled, circa late 1950s/ early 1960s
Image from the exhibition of a sketch. The sketch features a laying down figure outline with no defined features or face. The sketch is monotone and many sketch marks can be scene.
untitled, circa late 1950s/ early 1960s
Image from the exhibition featuring a sketch of a very abstract figure sitting with one leg crossed over the other knee in a chair. It is very hard to make out, but the figure, with no facial features, seems to be reclining in a chair. The only discernible detail are the legs and shoes of the figure.
untitled, circa late 1950s/ early 1960s
Selections From Video Program Cycle 1 (April–July)
Window 1
Real Action Figures (2022, 5:24, digital) 
Window 2
Cyclopean 3D: Life With A Beautiful Woman (2011, 5:16, digital) 
Hot Dogs At The Met (2008, 10:28, digital) 
Spaghetti Aza (1976, :57, 16mm on digital)
Window 3
When Timofeev Moves Everything Moves (2022, 9:54, digital)
Pushcarts of Eternity St. (2006, 10:33, digital) 
The Pushcarts Leave Eternity Street (2011, 13:00, digital)
Window 4
Things To Come (2022, 31:38, digital)
Window 5
Writhing City (2023, 25:34, digital)
Selections From Video Program Cycle 2 (July–September)
Window 1
Cartoon (2019, 10:42, digital)
Cartoonish (2021, 10:23, digital)
Figures (2022, 6:51, digital)
Window 3
The Whole Shebang (2019, 5:23, 16mm on digital) 
Turbulent Waters (2011/2022, 22:22, digital)
Nervous Magic Lantern: 3D For One Naked Eye or Two Naked Eyes (2019, 24:16, digital)
Window 4
Failure (2019, 27:54, digital)
Window 5
Book of Eternalisms 1–5 (2022-23, 80:54, digital)
Flo Rounds A Corner (1999, 6 minutes, digital)
Selections From Video Program Cycle 3 (September–November)
Window 1
Hoffman Student (2021, 2:43, digital)
Whims of Twenty Twenty-Three (2023, 12:50, digital)
Window 3
Once Upon A Planet (2018, 17:30, digital)
Other Urban Lives (2023, 5:55, digital)
Gravity Is Tops (2009,10:58, digital)
The Moments: Evening Boat Ride (2018, 9:08, digital)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2023, 8:45, digital)
Walkway (2014, 8:21, digital)
Window 4
Up The Ilusion (2023, 23:23, digital)
The Scenic Route (2008, 25:01, digital)
The Surging Sea of Humanity (2006, 10:41, digital)
Window 5
Tourists of the Familiar 1 (2023, 17:07, digital)