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Sun Ra’s Poetic Legacy Given New Life In Gallery Exhibition

Written by on March 4, 2021

Chicago-based Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery plans to highlight the literary legacy of Sun Ra in a new installation, featuring books and a vinyl release.

Sun Ra was an avant-garde composer and bandleader who was based in Chicago (alongside his Arkestra) for decades. He was light years ahead of his time in terms of both his fantastical Afro-futurist thought and in his meticulously self-released recordings. In 1971, Sun Ra taught a course at University of California, Berkeley: “The Black Man in the Cosmos”; and in 1974, starred with his Arkestra in the far-out science fiction cult classic Space Is the Place (which was partly based on his lectures).

After his death in 1993, Sun Ra left behind hundreds of recordings, drawings and poems (many of which were unreleased in his lifetime). 

Sun Ra, The Substitute Words: Poetry, 1957-72 at the Corbett vs. Dempsey, starting March 26, will showcase the poetic legacy of American jazz composer and Afro-futurist Sun Ra with an installation featuring pieces of poetry from the musician’s collection.

In addition to the exhibition, the gallery plans to release a 7″ pressing of two songs on Sun Ra’s 1961 album The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra, “I Struck a Match on the Moon” and “Dreamsville.” Corbett vs. Dempsey will also publish four books of Sun Ra’s poetry, two reissued collections — The Immeasurable Equation and Extensions Out: The Immeasurable Equation Vol. II — and two collected from liner notes in several of his earlier albums — Jazz by Sun Ra and Jazz in Silhouette. Copies of the books and vinyl are being sold on Corbett vs. Dempsey’s website.

Those interested can schedule a visit to the exhibition, which will remain open until April 24.

Below, stream some of our favorite Sun Ra tracks and reflect on the poetic legacy of arguably one of the most important jazz pioneers of the 20th Century.

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