Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Another Kind of Freedom:
Milford Graves and the Art of Interconnectivity

Leer en Español

Milford Graves, Collage of Healing Herbs and Bodily Systems (1994). Mixed media collage. Image courtesy of Artist Space, ICA LA, and the Estate of Milford Graves.

In 2017, the polymath Milford Graves (1941–2021) made a series of sculptural assemblages for the following year’s Queens International exhibition. Though Graves had produced aesthetic objects since the 1960s, this was the first significant presentation of his visual art within a museum context.1 One of these works, Pathways of Infinite Possibilities: Skeleton, comprises a real human skeleton adorned with various electronic components. Captivating, visceral, and even revolting, the construction is a bizarre amalgam of both scientific and aesthetic concerns. From the skull a web of wires cascades to the feet, while a small monitor bolted to the rib cage plays a video of a beating heart. Lower down, something of a cardiac trio resides: A plastic-wrapped human heart is accompanied by a laminated sign that reads “heart tono-rhythmology” and a small drum with the text “drum listens to heart” written on its skin. What are we to make of Graves’ radical fusion of art and science here? And what might it reveal about the assumed divisions between the two fields? Though recent writing on Graves has often centered his decades-long investigation into the connections between percussive and cardiac rhythms,2 much less attention has been given to how he used visual art to explore the interconnectivity of art and science—namely, the productive tension between scientific analysis and artistic idiosyncrasy and how it might yield new ways of elevating the human condition.

It is impossible to offer a pithy summary of the profound, exhilarating, and often overwhelming output of Graves. His hunger for knowledge earned him many designations throughout his life, including free jazz percussionist, heart rhythm specialist, visual artist, music professor, herbalist, acupuncturist, and martial arts inventor. A lifelong drummer, Graves gained notoriety in the 1960s for his improvisational free jazz percussion, which radically unhinged drumming from its normative timekeeping function.3 Yet it soon became apparent that music alone could not satisfy his kinetic curiosity. Around 1967, Graves invented Yara, a form of martial arts inspired by the bodily movements of African ritual dance, the praying mantis, and a swing dance called Lindy Hop that originated in Harlem. Yara utilized these movements within improvised, nonviolent sparring where practitioners found physical and mental freedom within the continual flow of action.

Later, Graves fostered this interest in the body by examining the relationship between percussive rhythms and heartbeats, at first studying his own heart and eventually those of willing volunteers. He found that the heart’s rhythms, like those in free jazz drumming, do not always adhere to metronomic time and felt that the medical and musical fields would do well to educate one another. Graves possessed a deep understanding of the link between music and human endurance, stating, “Anybody that is going to study music healing that does not study noncommercial, unadulterated Black music is making a tremendous mistake. Black music in this country, during the time of slavery…it was music that played an integral part in their survival.”4 Far from being interested only in the relation between natural and percussive rhythms at the sonic level, Graves viewed his overall project as a means of gaining bodily freedom and cultural liberation alike.5

As Graves continued to research the connections between the body, rhythm, and nature, his interests landed on the intersections between science and art; he did all he could to further his knowledge in both fields and harness the potential of their interconnection. Graves trained to become a medical technician and eventually built a laboratory in his Queens home. There, he used the latest computer technologies to study the parallels between heartbeats and drumbeats and to research the intricacies of the heart’s rhythms to improve cardiac treatment.6 This research directly informed his visual art, leading to the fluent, thrilling interactivity between aesthetics and method-based inquiry that particularly define his collages and assemblages.

Yara in the Dojo (1992). Image courtesy of the Estate of Milford Graves.

A productive tension between scientific objectivity and artistic subjectivity defines these works, and Graves often vacillated between the two ends of this logic spectrum, making works that embraced objectivity and then producing others that problematized this very notion. On the more objective side of things is the work on paper, Collage of Healing Herbs and Bodily Systems (1994), which, like all the works mentioned in this text, was on view in a recently-closed retrospective of Graves’ work at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA). Anchoring the collage is a black triangle that houses reproduced illustrations of a wide-open eye and leafy greens. Thick black lines extend outward from this hub, burrowing through forests of pasted images; each trail begins with diverse plant life and ends with human organs. Graves’ origin-to-destination logic makes palpable the connection between certain plants and the organs that benefit most from their consumption. One path contains images of witch hazel and Culver’s root that leads to the intestines; on another, hops and skunk cabbage lead to the brain, and so on, instructing us on the direct impact of these herbs on healing the body.7

Other collage works at ICA LA complicate Collage’s didacticism by foregrounding broader ideas about identity and race. In the small collage Untitled (2020), for example, the artist pits appropriated imagery against his meandering scrawls. Appearing at center-left is a map of the constellations most visible on the southern horizon at different times of the year, the geometry of which Graves countered with loose doodles and scribbled text. In the upper right, he penned the word “physiognomy,” under which a diagram of a face appears. On one hand, the inclusion of the constellation map suggests that the human chemical makeup is the same as that of the universe, and as such, we, like constellations, are interconnected beings—a message of essential unity. On the other, by calling our attention to physiognomy—the assessment of an individual’s character based upon their ethnic facial features—Graves underscores how the scientific field has historically used facial characteristics to marginalize and surveil nonwhite people.8 In this sense, the viewer is left with the impression that Graves’ imbrication of scientific study and artistic expression includes a profound understanding of the history of oppressive and abusive conduct performed in the name of science.

If Graves’ collages produce exchanges between the oneness of the human race and the social construct of racial difference, his assemblages problematize these corporeal notions even further. In Pathways of Infinite Possibilities: Yara (2017), Graves leans into the potency of juxtaposition in manners far more ambiguous and enthralling than he did with Skeleton. Roughly the size of a person, Yara comprises a small base from which two wooden planks shoot upward, each supporting several shelves. On the right plank, an anatomical model of the male body stands on a shelf accompanied by a sign that reads “Yara Magnetic Field”—all enveloped in a cloud of copper wire. On the left plank, another medical model demonstrates the pathways between the kidneys and major arteries. While this medical model color codes organs for easy identification, Graves contrasts such legibility with a pair of uncannily gray human hearts in formaldehyde-filled jars on higher-up shelves. Graves adds to this tension between the real and its representation by uniting the universality of the anatomical model—which strips the body of identity markers like race and gender—with objects laden with subjecthood: a miniature model of hands praying, a carved African mask, and the sign that mentions Graves’ form of martial art. Yara’s entangling of objective (medical, scientific) and subjective (racial, theological) approaches to the body proposes that without the uniqueness of our individual perspectives and experiences, we cannot propel humanity forward. In so doing, Graves offers a visualization of jazz musician Melvin Gibbs’ assertion that “cultural and scientific evolution requires multiple viewpoints, multiple vectors of thought and conceptualization, to yield optimum results.”9

When asked what he wanted his lasting legacy to be, Graves responded that he hoped to “inspire people to be as flexible as possible, less controlled as possible, so that you can get the maximum of how the planet vibrates as a whole. You owe it to yourself to reach another kind of freedom that’s been given to us by nature.”10 As we survey Graves’ art of interconnectivity—from his fusion of percussive and scientific experimentation to his assemblage of medical models and African masks—we can appreciate how he reached new kinds of freedom by melding seemingly unrelated fields. Just as Graves bridged supposed divisions to yield productive dialogues, he also imbued his work with iconography that resisted white hegemony and the limits of medical biases. Graves’ revolutionary oeuvre, therefore, asks us to question the coherence and stability of all boundaries. We owe it to ourselves to follow his lead.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 32.

Photo: Ryan Collerd.

Milford Graves, Pathways of Infinite Possibilities: Skeleton (2017). Human skeleton, steel pipe, wires, stickers, medical ear, model, dundun (talking drum), preserved heart, stethoscope, video monitor, transducer, amplifier, wood, metal, printed, labels, marker, casters, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Artist Space, ICA LA, and the Estate of Milford Graves. Photo: Filip Wolak.

  1. Queens International 2018: Volumes was on view at the Queens Museum in 2018–19 and was curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas and Baseera Khan. Graves has more recently been the subject of a traveling retrospective, which first appeared at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (2020–21) and was curated by Mark Christman. The show later appeared at Artists Space in New York (2021–22), where it was curated by Danielle A. Jackson, and finally, at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA) (2023), where it was curated by Amanda Sroka.
  2. See Mark Christman, Celeste DiNucci, and Anthony Elms, eds., Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal (Los Angeles: Inventory Press and Ars Nova Workshop, 2022). Produced on the occasion of the artist’s recent traveling retrospective, it is the first major publication dedicated to Graves’ career.
  3. See Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., “Free Jazz and the Price of Black Musical Abstraction,” in EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 355. Ramsey argues that free jazz, as a form of Black musical abstraction, contained its own political charge: “Did free jazz—this radical experiment in sound—merely reflect the politically charged moment, or did it fuel it? Both.”
  4. Milford Graves, quoted in Melvin Gibbs, “Making Contact,” in Christman, DiNucci, and Elms, Milford Graves, 189.
  5. “Healed by the Beat: Milford Graves, Jean-Daniel Lafontant, and Jake Nussbaum in Conversation,” in Christman, DiNucci, and Elms, Milford Graves, 71–81.
  6. Exhibition Guide for Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency (Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2023), 2; see also Heartbeat Drummer, color video, 2004, viewable at
  7. Joel T. Fry, “A Map of Herbal Healing,” in Christman, DiNucci, and Elms, Milford Graves, 109–10. Here, Fry, the late archaeologist and curator of Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, identifies and confirms the health benefits of the plants in Graves’ collage.
  8. For an excellent assessment of these pursuits, see Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).
  9. Gibbs, “Making Contact,” 187.
  10. Milford Graves, quoted in Mark Christman, “Introduction,” in Christman, DiNucci, and Elms, Milford Graves, 26.

Thomas Duncan is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Art History at UCLA. He is currently at work on his dissertation, “’The Right Bad Picture’: Failure and Relationality in Andy Warhol’s Photography, 1969­–1979″.

More by Thomas Duncan