Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency is dedicated to the life and work of the late interdisciplinary artist Milford Graves (1941–2021, born in Jamaica, Queens), whose revolutionary experiments—spanning music, medicine, movement, and art—explore the cosmic relationship between rhythms and the universe. Instrumental in the Free Jazz movement, Graves is best known as a percussionist, yet he applied his interest in rhythm far beyond the boundaries of music. A true polymath and innovator, Graves also trained as a cardiac technician to better understand the connection between the drum beat and the heartbeat; invented a martial art form called “Yara,” an improvisational practice loosely based on the movements of the praying mantis, the Lindy Hop, and African ritual dance; operated a community garden as a skilled botanist and herbalist; and taught generations of students as an influential professor in the Black Music Division at Bennington College.
Originating at Artists Space in New York, in collaboration with Mark Christman and Ars Nova Workshop in Philadelphia, Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency has been reimagined for the presentation at ICA LA. Reflecting Graves’ expansive approach, this comprehensive retrospective includes extensive film, photographic, and archival documentation of the artist’s live performances and dynamic collaborations across the globe including those with Japanese dancer Min Tanaka and jazz musicians Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan, and the New York Art Quartet. Also featured is a selection of Graves’ extraordinary assemblage sculptures and related documentation based on his studies of human anatomy and acupuncture, several expressive and rarely seen works on paper, a collection of hand-painted album covers (released under the artist’s own recording imprint, Self-Reliance Program, famously realized in collaboration with pianist Don Pullen), decorated percussion instruments, and a number of Graves’ iconic costumes. Accompanied by a series of live events hosted at ICA LA and at various locations across the city of Los Angeles, this presentation will further underscore the legacy of Graves’ work and the enduring impact of the artist’s singular and holistic approach to sound, spiritualism, and the study of the human body.
Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency is organized by Artists Space, New York, in collaboration with Mark Christman and Ars Nova Workshop, Philadelphia. The exhibition is curated by Danielle A. Jackson with Stella Cilman. The presentation at ICA LA is organized by Amanda Sroka, Senior Curator, with Caroline Ellen Liou, Curatorial Assistant.
Major support for Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency is provided by Karen Hillenburg and Sebastian Clough.
The exhibition is also generously funded by Betsy Greenberg and Steve NyBlom, Akio Tagawa, and Yuval Bar-Zemer.
Additional support provided by Kate Lally and Paul Solomon.
ICA LA is supported by the Curator’s Council and Fieldwork Council.