Cage, John. (1912-1992)

Where R=Ryoanji (R3), 1983

Tokuzo Okabe, Kanagawa. 1978. Drypoint etching on J Whatman paper, with full margins. Signed, titled, dated '83 in pencil, at Crown Point Press, San Francisco (with their blindstamp).  9.25 x 23.25 inches; Framed: 11 x 25.5 inches. Unnumbered, aside from the edition of 25. Brodie-Greenhalgh p.41.

John Cage, one of the most experimental and influential musicians and visual artists of the 20th century, became interested in Eastern philosophies, especially Zen, during the 1940s. The present dry-point engraving is from a suite he made following a trip to the Ryoanji Rock Garden in Kyoto, Japan, an extension of a tracing of fifteen stones Cage had made in pencil in 1982. This garden, according to the classic travel guide Nagel, 'represents the quintessence of the Zen doctrine and the art which it fostered'. Cage first visited the Ryoanji Temple and its early 16th-century rock garden in 1962, during a concert tour of Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo) with David Tudor, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and Yoko Ono.  Measuring 30 x 10 meters, the garden consists of carefully raked white pebbles with 15 rocks arranged seemingly at random.  Over a period of ten years, the last decade of his life, Cage devoted himself to drawings and prints addressing the aesthetic order of the complex that is revered in Japan as a perfect depiction of nature.  As with all of his late artistic endeavors, Cage developed chance techniques for each compositional action in the making of these works.  Cage used 15 rocks from a group of 16 collected from different parts of the world and drew around each of them onto the copper plate with a dry-point needle in various positions determined by chance operations dictated by the I Ching ('Book of Changes'), the ancient Chinese book of divination. The letter 'R' in the title stands for the number of rocks used in making each image. For (R3) he employed R to the power of three to produce 3,375 dry-point outlines. (16263)

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