Jazz pioneer, bandleader, mystic, philosopher, and consummate Afro- Futurist, Sun Ra (b. 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, on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art April 24–August 2, 2009, in the second floor gallery, examines how Ra and his dynamic, continually-evolving ensemble, the Philadelphia-based Arkestra, crafted both their otherworldly image and their 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 The show will also include the unpublished manuscript, The Magic Lie, a book of Ra’s poetry, which has become influential in the nascent black Islamic movement.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.
Pathways to Unknown Worlds is curated by John Corbett, Anthony Elms, and Terri Kapsalis for the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, and is coordinated at the ICA by Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow Stamatina Gregory