from artnet

Sun Ra’s Legendary Album Art—Sometimes Handcrafted, Always Otherworldly—Has Been Compiled Into a Book for the First Time

“Sun Ra: Art on Saturn” features a vast quantity of album covers that were handcrafted by Ra and his bandmates.

by Min Chen

A handmade Sun Ra album cover, from Sun Ra: Art on Saturn. Photo: Courtesy of Fantagraphics.
A handmade Sun Ra album cover, from Sun Ra: Art on Saturn. Photo: Courtesy of Fantagraphics.

As an artist, Sun Ra was prone to restlessness. Never content with simply being a jazzman, Ra would, from the late 1950s, unleash a stream of records with his group Arkestra that edged the genre into the realm of the avant-garde. 

And he didn’t stop there: Ra’s groundbreaking music came packaged in similarly alluring album covers, which psychedelically melded his multitude of preoccupations from ancient Egyptian iconography to emerging sci-fi tropes. They were otherworldly designs, forging a visually distinctive path where there was none before. “These covers,” in the estimation of Irwin Chusid, “belonged between covers.”

It’s why Chusid, the exclusive administrator of Ra’s catalog, has edited and released Sun Ra: Art on Saturn, the first publication to focus on the artist’s cover art. Chiefly, it features the sleeves of the 70 albums that Ra released on his independent record label, Saturn, from 1957 to 1988. They were designed by artists such as Chris Hall and Claude Dangerfield, whose creative processes are documented in the book.

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