John Cage, visual artist

Cage painting

Best known as an experimental composer and performer, Cage (1912–92) was also a visual artist who created an extensive body of prints, drawings, and watercolors during the last 20 years of his life.

In all of his work, regardless of medium, Cage consistently dismissed conventional aesthetics by limiting or eliminating the artist’s choice in the creative process. In composing his watercolors, he relied on his signature method of chance operations, guided by a system of random numbers derived from the Yijing.

The sight of silence: John Cage’s complete watercolors by Ray Kass (Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 2011) reproduces all of the 125 signed watercolors that Cage created during four week-long sessions at the Mountain Lake Workshop, Virginia, between 1983 and 1990.

The included critical essay and accompanying workshop diaries relate the methods at play in Cage’s visual art to those of his musical compositions and theater pieces. The accompanying DVD offers a live view of Cage at work, featuring a public reading with audience discussion, as well as an interview with him about his watercolor paintings.

Below, Cage’s collaboration with the visual artist Marcel Duchamp for Hans Richter’s Dreams that money can buy.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Visual art