Sun Ra was an American composer and musician born on 22 May 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama. Little is known of his early life aside from his birth name, Herman Blount, which he later officially changed to the stellar moniker so inherent to his personality. His earliest confirmed work includes a studio recording from 1947, in which he plays the piano parts for Eugene Wright’s orchestra. In Chicago in the 1950s Sun Ra formed a trio with him on a keyboard he had modified himself, typical of his technically creative process even then. In 1956 he formed a quintet comprising the likes of Ronnie Boykins, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and Pat Patrick. _e names of this “Arkestra”, in the language created by Sun Ra, would also evolve, from Solar to Myth Science and later Astro Infinity Arkestra. He was among the first jazzmen to publish his music under his own label, El Saturn Records. Closely tied to a complex personal mythology, his “cosmic” music pushed the boundaries of jazz and experimental music, blending themes such as ancient Egyptian esoterica with the conquest of outer space. He was a major initiator of the Afro-Futurist movement, which, through the exploration of a science-fiction-inspired, non-Western cosmology, takes a critical approach to the history and current experience of the African diaspora.
He led the Sun Ra Arkestra until his death in 1993. Its surviving members have continued to live communally, running a corner store in Philadelphia, while the group’s music endures to this day.
Previous exhibitions (selection)
Cosmic Communities: Coming Out into Outer Space – Homofuturism, Applied Psychedelia & Magic Connectivity, Galerie Buchholz, New York (United States)
The shadow took shape, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (United States)
Sun Ra: When Sun Comes Out: Ephemera 1956-1975, David Nolan Gallery, New York (United States)