Sunday, 12 January 2014

JOHN CAGE (1912-1992) - PRINTS

John Cage is perhaps best known as a radical avant-garde composer; however Cage’s interdisciplinary also spanned painting, printmaking and drawing. Although Cage didn’t necessarily classify himself as a visual artist, his influence and impact on the visual arts is perhaps arguably larger than in his primary field of music.


Cage’s first print (see below) was a lithograph created in response to Duchamp’s death in 1969, the print was a collaboration with Calvin Sumsion. It wasn’t until 1978 that after being invited by Kathan Brown in 1978 to make work at Crown point press between 1978 and 1992 Cage returned to printmaking, producing more than 600 prints and almost 300 drawings and watercolours.  

John Cage, (1969) Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, [Lithograph on black paper]

Cage used ten words when printmaking as guideposts on how to proceed; method, structure, intention, discipline, notation, indeterminacy, interpenetration, imitation, devotion and circumstances. These markers focused Cage to continually explore the variations and processes within printmaking in order to establish fresh ideas and new ways of working. Cage’s delicate lines in drawings such as the Where R= Ryoanji series shares parallels with the subtle mediated methodical line work of Agnes Martin, both artists seem to become encapsulated  and occupied by the power of line. Cage started the series Where R= Ryoanji  in 1983, the R stands for 15 stones and the number preceding R states how many times Cage drew around each stone the number following the / line is a recording of the number of pencils used to create the drawing.

John Cage, (1988) 3R (Where R = Ryoanji) [Pencil on Japanese handmade paper]


This almost code like approach is a compositional method that represents Cages approach as systematic and although without context the titles often appear absurd, they are embedded in a logical framework.  Cage became a machine investigating Oriental philosophies introducing a renewed contemporary conceptual approach to printmaking.

The series; Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) created in 1978 highlights Cage’s embrace of printmaking. Beginning with two intaglio processes on day one, Cage proceeded to add a new process to a print each day for a week, except on the seventh day Cage subtracted a process. Cage appears to question authorial control by using chance operations in order to decipher; paper size, plate size and plate location on the paper. By drawing onto the plates with his eyes closed, Cage brings about a heightened sense of meditation and mediation in order to push printmaking into an almost unconscious and autonomous process in a pre-determined existence. 



John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.1  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatints and photoetching] Image Size:1¼ x2¾" Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.2  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatints with photoetching] Image Size: 1¼ x 4¼"  Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.3  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatint with photoetching] Image Size: 7 x 2¼  Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.4  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatint with photoetching] Image Size: 10 x ¾"  Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.5  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatint with photoetching] Image Size: 1½x6⅝“ Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.6  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatint with photoetching] Image Size: 7 x 5⅝” Paper Size: 12 x 17”

John Cage (1978) Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing) No.7  [hard and soft ground etchings with sugar lift aquatint with photoetching] Image Size: 5x3” Paper Size: 12 x 17”







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