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Sun Ra at the Portland Art Museum


"To Sun Ra, Outer Space was not an escapist fantasy―it was a place where society, culture, and beliefs are reimagined to give power to the oppressed."

 

A message to Earth-dwellers:

On display now through January 27th, the Portland Art Museum and Portland-based, POC-centric arts collective Deep Underground (DUG) present “MONUMENTS. The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra” — a multimedia celebration of the pioneering Afrofuturist’s legacy. See the KMHD Events page for details on presentations happening throughout the exhibit’s duration, including film screenings, open mics and live music.

 

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To call it a tribute would be incorrect, since that word assumes Sun Ra’s absence from this realm. Though only active on Earth between the years of 1934 and 1993, Ra’s mission has only become clearer and more vital with time, combining science fiction, music, art, political theory and philosophy to propose a thriving future for Black people. Originally sent from Saturn to preach peace to this planet’s inhabitants, Ra’s vision was of an “altered destiny” — a utopian belief that a more meaningful and just world awaits humanity in Outer Space. 

In alignment with Sun Ra and his Arkestra promoting enlightenment through their music, art, and film, this exhibition will draw from the comprehensive archive Sun Ra and his collaborators left, including more than 130 albums, countless books and broadsheets of poetry, posters, paintings, photographs, and performance attire. Other artifacts will be presented on loan from the University of Chicago’s Alton Abraham Collection of Sun Ra Archive, with supplemental support from private collectors and music enthusiasts. Regional artists, fabricators, and designers have contributed to the exhibition design to help bring Sun Ra’s world to life for PAM visitors.

 

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About DUG:
Organized by a cosmic kin of four women, Deep Underground (DUG) was originally founded in 2015 as an open mic project dedicated to instilling a sense of safety and freedom within Portland’s under-recognized black and brown community. Their work began in a 100-year old NE Portland home, creating intentional space to empower unsung people. Their open-mic sessions often end with discourse or reflection on themes of the times such as: Revolution, Vices, Love, Addiction, Human/Civil Rights, and Death. By creating a space to talk about revolution, these women have started their own. Since their genesis, DUG has gone on to throw large-scale events, in-depth youth programming, film screenings, concerts, and multimedia performances. The collective recently addressed city hall with the hopes of providing insight into the needs of black and brown artist communities. Their foundation is rooted in much of the same work Sun Ra was doing over 50 years ago; it is in that spirit they have been invited to lend their perspective and curatorial vision to the exhibition representing this afro-cosmic hero.

We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments., the year-long series this exhibit completes, is organized by visiting artistic director Libby Werbel in collaboration with the Museum’s curatorial and education departments. Funding is provided in part by the Miller Meigs Endowment for Contemporary Art, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art, and the Artist & Participatory Programs Fund of the Education Department. Public programs presented in partnership with c3:initiative. MONUMENTS. was made possible through additional support and sponsorship from Portland Garment Factory, Nike’s Blue Ribbon Studio, Form.xyz Foundry, and KMHD Jazz Radio. With generous consultation from Eric Isaacson at Mississippi Records. *

 

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