Some people make such an impact on the world that their influence becomes almost impossible to trace, diluting in to areas inconceivable from their origins. Not often, but increasingly so some of these individuals don’t receive the gratification that they deserve by fading into obscurity. Sun Ra is well known to many as the pinnacle of avant-garde and a jazz genius so it is great news that the David Nolan Gallery have curated an exhibition about his work in the context of fine art. His work most obviously existed in the realm of jazz but he also created accomplished films, philosophical ideas and incredible album art.
To understand the great jazz musicians work and ideas you often have to think quite literally out of this world, “We have the human race and the alien race,” he said in a 1981 interview with Detroit Black Journal. “I’m not human, because to err is human… I didn’t get my status making errors.”
This stubbornly brilliant man wanted to progress the world into a more beautiful and spiritual place. Many of these ideas were catalogued into his impressive 1974 film Space is the Place, in which he attempts to transport Earth’s black population to a new planet for a fresh start. “He was very specific with what he was trying to achieve,” explains John Corbett. “He thought it was his job [to change the world]. I think his job was a messianic one. He saw himself in an enlightening role.” Sun Ra is now viewed as an early afro-futurist, an academic term connoting futuristic fantasy trends in black culture as a means of critique and exploration of African diaspora; though the term didn’t exist until 1993, the year he died.
Exhibiting a selection of ephemera related to Sun Ra, including album art, rarely seen photographs, and one rather atypical press release this show puts Sun Ra on a level which he thoroughly deserves. All objects were recovered from his late manager Alton Abraham’s home by the writer, musician, and curator John Corbett. His album artwork for example displays a naivety in design which is so beautiful and
This year would have marked the 100th birthday of Sun Ra or his ‘Earth Jubilee’ as he preferred to describe it so it seems nothing but completely fitting to celebrate him through this exhibition.
The exhibition runs until August 2nd. Find out more from the David Nolan Gallery here
Sun Ra: When Sun Comes Out: Ephemera 1956-1975 at the David Nolan Gallery, New York
527 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 6pm