Norton Simon Museum Presents Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel: An Artwork by John Cage

Pasadena, CA – The Norton Simon Museum presents an installation of Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, an artwork by American composer and artist John Cage (1912–1992). Open September 24, 2010–March 28, 2011.

Created in 1969 as a tribute to artist Marcel Duchamp, Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel is a multiple comprised of five components: four Plexigrams and one lithograph, all with randomly placed text and images. This innovative work, with its captivating construction and endless interpretation by the viewer, has not been on view at the Museum since 1970.

John Cage, American, 1912-1992 Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, 1969 Silkscreens on Plexiglas in wooden bases and a lithograph Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Mrs. Judith Thomas, 1970 © John Cage Trust

John Cage made an impact on many artistic disciplines—theater, dance, poetry, visual art and musical composition. His first forays into art involved music, and he is arguably best known for 4’33” , first performed in 1952. Cage composed a musical performance in which well-known pianist David Tudor sat at the piano in silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. By including noise as well as silence, 4’33” exemplifies Cage’s characteristic sense of humor and rebellion. By removing the music from a musical performance, he allowed the ambient noises from the uncomfortable audience to become just as much of the composition as the pianist and piano onstage.

In 1969, while he was the composer-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati, Cage was prompted by art patron Alice Weston to create his first visual artwork. Around the same time, an uncited art publication solicited several artists, Cage among them, to say something in honor of Marcel Duchamp, who had died the year before and who was both a friend to and and influence on Cage. Cage and the artist Jasper Johns were discussing the publication’s request when Johns said, “I don’t want to say anything about Marcel.” Cage took this statement and used it for the title of his first venture into the visual arts.

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