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Sun Ra Exhibition Opens in Philadelphia

Sun Ra prepares to perform at the Village Gate in New York City for the opening concert of the Greenwich Village Jazz Festival in 1987.
Jazz pioneer, bandleader, mystic, philosopher, and consummate Afro-Futurist, Sun Ra, (born Herman Poole Blount 1914, Birmingham, Alabama, died 1993) and his personal mythology have grown … Read More "Sun Ra Exhibition Opens in Philadelphia"

Jazz pioneer, bandleader, mystic, philosopher, and consummate Afro-Futurist, Sun Ra, (born Herman Poole Blount 1914, Birmingham, Alabama, died 1993) and his personal mythology have grown increasingly relevant to a broad range of artists and communities. “Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968” presents a collection of paintings, drawings, prints, manuscripts, ephemera, and video produced by and about Ra and his associates-much of it previously unseen. This exhibition, running now until August 2 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/University of Pennsylvania, examines how Ra and his dynamic, continually evolving ensemble, the Philadelphia-based Arkestra, crafted both their otherworldly image and fiercely independent approach to self-production.

Highlights of the exhibition include original drawings for their 1960s albums Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow and Other Planes of There, and five newly discovered typed and annotated broadsheets. Until recently, only one such broadsheet was known to exist, the one that Ra gave saxophonist John Coltrane in 1956. The show will also include an unpublished manuscript, The Magic Lie, a book of Ra’s poetry, which has become influential in the nascent Black Islamic movement. In addition to these documents, the film Spaceways, by Edward English, will be on view. The film documents Ra and his Arkestra (a deliberate re-spelling of “orchestra”) in 1968, as they prepare to perform at Carnegie Hall.

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