Afro-futurism (‘The Shadows Took Shape’ at the Studio Museum


David Huffman MLK


Kiluanji Kia Henda, Icarus

054 055

William Cordova Miniature Spacecraft


Derrick Adams, We<> Here


William Viallongo


Cristina de Middel, Afronauts

sun ra

(Charles Shabacon, portrait of Sun Ra)

A few of the things I saw, “The Shadows Took Shape” at the Studio Museum in Harlem. A 1990s art movement, Afro-futurism is inspired by the visionary art of free style jazz musician and cosmic philosopher Sun Ra, who was prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. Out of this world and spanning continents, Afro-futurism blends sci-fi, pop, and gnostic religion. Born Herman Blount in the 1930s and abducted by aliens who took him to Saturn, Sun Ra claimed to have undergone mystical transport and revelation. In contrast, the artifacts on display here are built of harder and more ramshackle, cheaply constructed material. The odds stacked against it, Afro-futurism is a tongue in cheek and low-tech retro disaster aesthetic. I’m not sure, but I don’t think it is supposed to transcend the reality its seekers seek to leave behind, even as you get the vague sense that the sound of someplace better out there crackles in distant galaxies. For an excellent review, see

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics.
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One Response to Afro-futurism (‘The Shadows Took Shape’ at the Studio Museum

  1. dmfant says:

    cool, reminds me of P-Funk’s mothership (google images).
    did you catch: ?

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