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By Culturekiosque Staff

STUTTGART, GERMANY, 23 JULY 2012 — Composer, writer, painter, philosopher and passionate mushroom hunter —  or, as Arnold Schönberg put it, an "inventor and a genius". These are but a few attributes accorded the controversial American artist John Cage. His concept of silence, his use of coincidence and his involvement with visual art revolutionised music, and influenced heavily dance and avant-garde art of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart celebrates the 100th birthday of John Cage (5 September 1912 — 12 August 1992) with an exhibition of its wide-ranging holdings of the artist’s work. Entitled It’s John. John Cage and spanning the years from 1969 to 1990, the exhibition shows twenty-three prints, two drawings, one object (Plexigram) and four rarely seen books as well as a comprehensive selection of documentary material from the Sohm Archive. The title of the show is taken from a series of photographs in the Sohm Archive.

Dick Higgins: Idea for a promotion brochure for Notations (detail), 1968
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Archiv Sohm,
Photo: © Estate of Dick Higgins 2012

The presentation is complemented by a selection of compositions by the artist which can be heard at an audio station in the exhibition and in a series of concerts that form part of an extensive events programme accompanying the exhibition.

John Cage is best known as a composer. Early on in his career he began to incorporate radio (static) and recorded sound into his compositions, to write music for prepared piano, other non-standard instruments, everyday objects and to allow chance (random noise) to play a key role in his works.

By the late 1960s, the composer began to make a name for himself as a visual artist as well. He experimented, influenced by the work of his friend Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Zen Buddhism, with different printing techniques and explored ways of translating his chance-controlled compositional principles into the new visual medium. John Cage’s multidisciplinary creative practice inspired some of the key trends of 1960s visual art, among them Hap-pening, Fluxus and Pop Art.

In the collection of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, John Cage is represented by drawings, prints and a three-dimensional work, the Plexigram No. 3 "Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel".

The Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs has been acquiring works by John Cage since 1981, many of them through the "Konrad Kohlhammer-Stiftung" to the Friends of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. The latest acquisition to date, an etching, entered the collection in 2003 thanks to the "Vermächtnis Günther und Renate Hauff".

Other works on paper from the two bequests are currently on show in the exhibition To the Museum of Modern Dreams: Artistic Concepts of the 1960s to the 1980s (until 30 September 2012).

Further works by and about John Cage —  primarily books and archival material – entered the collection in 1981 through the acquisition of the Sohm Archive, one of the world’s leading collections of archival material documenting avant-garde art movements such as Fluxus. The dentist Hanns Sohm (1921— 1999) from Markgröningen (near Stuttgart) had collected material documenting art trends such as Fluxus, Happening or Performance Art for many years. His acquaintance with Dick Higgins (1938 — 1998), the publisher of Cage’s Notations, allowed him to put together a substantial body of documents, some of which are presented here for the first time.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue documenting the Staatsgalerie’s holdings of work by John Cage. It is available at the Museum Shop for € 9.80 Euro.

The presentation is complemented by a programme of autumn events featuring evening performances of several of Cage’s compositions: 25 September;  6, 11, 30 October;  8, 10 November 2012). 

It’s John. John Cage
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 30 - 32
70173 Stuttgart, Germany
Tel: (49) 711 470 40 0


All titles are chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.

Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage
By Kenneth Silverman
Hardcover: 496 pages
Knopf (October 2010) 
ISBN-10: 1400044375
ISBN-13: 978-1400044375

No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33"
By Kyle Gann

Paperback: 272 pages
Yale University Press (January 2011)
ISBN-10: 0300171293
ISBN-13: 978-0300171297

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