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Book on Sun Ra and Afro-Futurism Now Available

To these eyes, too much Sun Ra ephemera is never enough, and WhiteWalls/University of Chicago Press’ new Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground 1954-68-designed to accompany the exhibition of the same name at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center last fall-is an essential compendium to the mystical, and mystifying, canon of the avant-garde bandleader.

Edited by a trio of writers who know their fair share of outsider art (Down Beat contributor and teacher John Corbett, Baffler writer and Tony Conrad collaborator Terry Kapsalis, and artist and writer Anthony Elms), this visually compelling collection compiles a fascinating array of early Sun Ra and El Saturn artifacts, such as original and unreleased album cover art, letters, notes, business cards, receipts and even a black-light painting (though the latter falls slightly after the book’s time frame, being from 1970). The majority of the items date from the ’50s, when Ra and business partner Alton Abraham were honing and cultivating their Afro-Futurist mythology and persona.

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