An image of Not wanting to say anything about Marcel. Plexigram IV

John Cage

(United States of America 05 Sep 1912 – 12 Aug 1992)

Not wanting to say anything about Marcel. Plexigram IV, from the series Not wanting to say anything about Marcel

Not on display
Further information

Composer and artist John Cage is best known for his conceptual composition 4’33” 1952, a piece in which the performer remains silent on stage for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. It has been called the ‘silent piece’, but Cage created this work to encourage the audience to listen to the ambient sounds around them.

‘Not wanting to say anything about Marcel’, a series of eight plexigrams and two lithographs, produced in collaboration with graphic designer Calvin Sumsion and master printer Fred Genis, are Cage’s earliest graphic works. Created as a tribute to Marcel Duchamp, the work derives it title from a remark made by artist Jasper Johns to Cage in response to an art magazine’s request for their response in memoriam to Duchamp’s death.

Cage was interested in the use of chance as a way of determining composition, image and colour in his work. For the series, he said:

“I subjected a dictionary to the ‘I Ching’; I picked words, then letters from those words, and finally their arrangement in space by chance operations. I distributed these words according to a typography likewise based on chance, on sheets of Plexiglas. I put the eight sheets of Plexiglas parallel to each other on a wooden base. Thus the letters appear in depth, they are superimposed and combined as we look at them… The whole thing comes from chance, including the colours. It is an object that has no meaning and which cannot be said to refer to a text. And yet, it seems to me that Duchamp would have been, as he used to say, ‘amused’ by that object.”1

1. John Cage ‘For the birds: John Cage in conversation with Daniel Charles’, Marion Boyars, London 1981, p114

Print, Sculpture
eight colour screenprints on plexiglass, wood base
36.5 x 61.0 x 36.9 cm installed :
a-h - 8 plexiglass sheets; 35.6 x 50.9 x 0.3 cm; each panel
i - wood base; 1.9 x 61 x 36.9 cm
j - book of text; 35.6 x 51 x 0.3 cm
Signature & date

Signed l.r. wood base, ink "John Cage". Signed l.r. wood base, ink "Cal Sumsion". Not dated.

Gift of Fred Genis 1991
Accession number