Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency is dedicated to the life and work of the late interdisciplinary artist Milford Graves (1941-2021), whose revolutionary experiments – spanning music, medicine, movement, and art – explore the cosmic relationships between rhythms and the universe. Though Graves was best known for his role as a percussionist in the Free Jazz movement, he applied his interest in rhythm far beyond the boundaries of music. He also trained as a cardiac technician to better understand the connection between drum rhythms, the heartbeat, and its healing properties; invented a martial arts form called “Yara”; operated a community garden as a skilled botanist and herbalist; and taught generations of students as an influential professor at Bennington College.
Originating at Artists Space in New York, in collaboration with Mark Christman and Are Nova Workshop, Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency has been reimagined for the presentation at ICA LA. Reflecting Graves’ expansive practice, this comprehensive retrospective exhibition includes extensive film, photographic, and archival documentation the artist’s live performances and dynamic and international collaborations including those with Japanese dancer Min Tanaka and jazz musician Giuseppi Logan. Also featured is a selection of Graves’ extraordinary assemblage sculptures, several expressive yet instructional works on paper, a collection of hand-decorated album Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency Feb 11—May 14, 2023 covers, percussion instruments, and costumes, along with documentation related to his studies of human anatomy and acupuncture. Accompanied by a series of live events, this presentation will further underscore the legacy of Graves’ work and the enduring impact of the artist’s singular practice and holistic approach.
Milford Graves (1941-2021, born in Jamaica, Queens) was a percussionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, and professor. A pioneer of Free Jazz, Graves was a member of the New York Art Quartet, whose iconic first recording in 1964 featured LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and in 1967, he played at John Coltrane’s funeral. In 1972, Graves invented a martial arts form called Yara based on the movements of the praying mantis, African ritual dance, and the Lindy Hop. Graves later joined the Black Music Division, at Bennington College, where he taught for 39 years. In 2000, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2015 he received the Doris Duke Foundation Impact Award. He is the subject of a critically acclaimed feature-length documentary, Milford Graves: Full Mantis (2018), directed by his former student, Jake Meginsky, with Neil Young. Among his many notable recordings are In Concert At Yale University (with Andrew Cyrille, 1966); Dialogue of the Drums (with Andrew Cyrille, 1974); Meditation Among Us (1977); Grand Unification (1998); Beyond Quantum (with Anthony Braxton and William Parker, 2008); and Space/ Time Redemption (with Bill Laswell, 2014).
Major support for Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency is provided by Karen Hillenburg and Sebastian Clough.
ICA LA is supported by the Curator’s Council and Fieldwork Council.