John Cage 10 Stones 2 1989 Spitbite
Aquatint and sugarlift 22.75 x 18.13 inches
At the heart of the work he produced at Crown Point is a series of prints and drawings inspired by the Ryoanji garden in Kyoto, Japan’s most celebrated Zen garden, composed of 15 stones arranged in five mossy islands against a ground of raked gravel. Cage’s prints and drawings, begun in 1983, required him to draw (first with a metal drypoint tool, later in pencil) around the perimeters of 15 stones whose positions on the etching plate or paper were determined by chance. In homage to the restricted space of the Japanese garden, and once more demonstrating his love of delimitation, Cage did not allow any of the stones to cross the edge of the plate, so that the resulting prints look chaotic and serene at the same time, the artist’s line orbiting unpredictably within the rules. The drawings are more tentative and fragile, the pencilled ghosts of the stones sometimes barely insisting on the paper. Later (seen here), Cage extended his practice of drawing around stones at another print workshop at Mountain Lake, Virginia. Here, he painted in watercolour around larger stones taken from a river bed, using feathers for brushes and again producing unpredictable ellipses within a highly structured situation- turned into further aquatint prints at Crown Point.