At first glance, this art book looks out-of-date with its 1970s desaturated colors, as if salvaged from a garage sale. Co-published this year by PictureBox and art gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey to offer a glimpse into the hazy world of radical and elusive jazz musician Sun Ra, "Space, Interiors and Exteriors, 1972" is an artifact from four decades ago, transported to modern day.
A significant year for Sun Ra, 1972 marked the year his band recorded Space is the Place, a concept album that served as the soundtrack for the visually phantasmagoric cult film by the same name—which Ra wrote and starred in. In the same year, Ra published his second book of poetry, "Extensions Out: The Immeasurable Equation, Vol II," which was accompanied by murals by fellow bandmate Ayé Aton, who was the drummer and percussionist for Ra's Arkestra. Ra encouraged Aton to explore Egyptian and even cosmic motifs, and Aton discovered different lighting techniques (including black-light) and paints—the results were artworks both inside and outside buildings. These murals relay the message of Sun Ra's aesthetic and Afrofuturism philosophy.
The book features never-before-published photographs of Ra on the set of his bizarre sci-fi film in Oakland, California, as well as images of the aforementioned Aton's space-themed murals—visual manifestations of Ra's influences on the artist—which had formerly been viewed only by a lucky few. Unaccompanied by descriptions or words, the images speak for themselves, and take you to an era of avant-garde freedom and mysterious beauty.
"Space, Interiors and Exteriors, 1972" is available from Corbett vs. Dempsey for $20.
Images by Nara Shin