Category Archives: John Cage

Alexis Evelyn Lowry on John Cage

River Rock and Smoke, 4/13/90, #12
is one in a series of sixty-one unique works, which John Cage produced with Ray Kass at Mountain Lake Workshop in Virginia in 1990. Each drawing was created using a combination of innovative printing and watercolor techniques. The first step in making each image was the embedding of the paper with smoke. In the case of this drawing, a small straw fire was set on a printing plate and then was extinguished when the dampened sheet of paper was held over the plate. The paper trapped and was imbued with smoke from the fire, which left the bronze-colored pattern of smoldering embers we now see on two-thirds of the paper’s surface. Cage then used watercolor to trace the perimeter of a stone that he had placed along the bottom edge of the work. The position of the stone was determined using the I-Ching, an ancient Chinese system of divination that was critical to Cage’s practice, and this reflects his ongoing concern with chance operations. Using chance to resolve the composition of the work allowed Cage to mitigate the authorial gesture of the paintbrush, to which he was generally resistant.

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