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Not Wanting To Say Anything About Marcel

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Not Wanting To Say Anything About Marcel

Artist: John Cage (American, 1912 - 1992)

Date: 1969
Medium: Walnut, screenprint on plexiglas
Plexi- 14 x 20 in. Base: 14-1/2 x 24 x 1 in.
Signed: According to accompanying book, there should be the artist's signature and an edition number, but these were not evident. M.Murray 12/11/08
Markings: Wooden base, upper left (black ink, printed): 'N.B.'
Credit Line: 75th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of Audrey Flack.
Object number: 2008.28
Label Text
The title of this John Cage piece is based on a comment by artist Jasper Johns after Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) passed away. Duchamp’s conceptual approach to art-making influenced Cage, an avant-garde music composer, Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and generations of artists.

At an early stage in his professional career, Duchamp grew disinterested in traditional painting, calling it “retinal,” and, therefore, inferior to ideas. He said, “I discarded brushes and explored the mind more than the hand.”

Duchamp’s earliest works of art, made in the 1910s, were informed by Dada. Dada promoted chance operations as a weapon against logic. That is, poets and artists formed their works by selecting items at random. Dada employed irreverence, humor, performance, and other expressions that were ephemeral, non-commercial, and broke down distinctions between high and low arts.

John Cage used similar kinds of random means, including the I Ching, to create his musical compositions. He incorporated everyday sounds or adjusted pianos, calling them “prepared pianos,” as he explored new possibilities in sound. Here he offers an interchangeable array of scratched letter panels that are read as a visual “poem,” in honor of Duchamp.

© John Cage Trust