Tyler Stallings writes about John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures on KCET.org
"Considering the Sound of an Air Conditioner: John Cage and Zen Ox-Herding Pictures" by Tyler Stallings
John Cage was a composer, philosopher, writer and visual artist whose interest in East Asian and Indian philosophy led him to renounce artistic intention and instead embrace process and chance in music, performance and visual art. In honor of the centenary of John Cage's birth, the Pomona College Museum of Art presents the traveling exhibition "John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures" through December 16, 2012. The exhibition brings together 55 watercolors made on brown paper towels, created by Cage in 1988 at the Mountain Lake Workshop in Blacksburg, Virginia. Initially, they were simply used for wiping watercolor brushes, that is, they were not intended as final works. But, as this exhibition demonstrates, most anything can be considered art--in the most positive sense--based on intention and context. The process behind their making and their inspiration also exemplifies the influence on his life of work of Zen Buddhism, which emphasizes that enlightenment can be achieved through a personal path, eschewing doctrine, but emphasizing dialogue with a teacher.