John Cage (image from internet)
Back in the '80s when I was living on 16th Street, I used to pass John Cage fairly regularly on 6th Avenue. He would always be trudging along with his shoulders slumped and his arms distended by two overloaded Balducci's shopping bags full of gourmet groceries, heading up to his place on 18th Street. Often, we would exchange a nod or smile, which I guess I regarded as my subtle non-invasive salute. But looking back, it seems strange that I never actually spoke to him.
Of all the thinkers, writers, artists who have presented Westernized interpretations of Eastern thought, it is John Cage's cryptic, witty, playful texts that ultimately have resonated most profoundly for many artists -- particularly painters. I think that is because what Cage was presenting was not theory or dogma, but direct experience -- the practical process of allowing each mundane occurrence to have presence in our consciousness. It is foremost a practice of the acceptance of inherent uncertainty as a fundamental premise, and as a problem solving (or dissolving) tool. It is a process, a way of regarding the world, that offers profound applications and implications, not just in the studio, but in life. And it is especially useful when one is working with a material as ephemeral as color.
As the art world celebrates Cage's 100th year, and at the risk of saying something when nothing would suffice, I would like to just say, "thanks John".
John Cage HV2, No 17b, monotype (image from Crown Point Press)