John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures
Selected and Edited
by Stephen Addiss & Ray Kass

October 2009
Hardcover, 128 pages
60 full color illustrations
9.8 x 8.7 x 0.8 inches

ISBN: 978-0-8076-1601-7
$34.95 (Can $39.95)


Uniting fifty never-before-seen watercolor images, this book explores the powerful influence of Zen on the renowned artist and composer’s work.

This book brings together fifty never-before-seen watercolor images from the brush of renowned artist and composer John Cage. These pieces were initially considered a by-product of a 1988 Mountain Lake Workshop, test sheets used to experiment with the flow of color from Cage’s brush as he prepared for larger Zen pieces, but authors Stephen Addiss and Ray Kass unite them here to explore the influence of Zen in Cage’s life. They juxtapose the compositions with the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures, a series of images used to communicate the essence of Zen for nearly one thousand years. They refer fragments of Cage’s poetry and his many statements about Zen practice, providing a fascinating lens through which the reader can view the Mountain Lake Workshop paintings. Cage’s images seem to become mysterious echoes of the centuries-old Ten Ox-Herding Pictures themselves, images about searching for the path to enlightenment.

"Known best for his music and performances, John Cage also painted and wrote extensively. Zen Buddhism influenced his approach to his work—nature as a path to self, collaboration in performance and happenstance in composition. The art and poetry in this book represent a collaboration both accidental and deliberate between Cage, Addiss and Kass. Cage was working on another series of paintings when he marked a series of brown paper towels. Artist Kass and artist/composer Addiss ordered the towels into a sequence, then Addiss culled Cage's writings to create a cutup or recomposition of found words and phrases into a new work. Cage recognized the importance of the remix long before it became fashionable. The accidental circumstances of this work's assemblage doesn't diminish its charm or delicacy. The introductory material provides essential context, but the best approach may be to read and view the work, read the essays, then review the piece again. Addiss and Kass prove the continuing relevance of the tradition of ox-herding as a format for teaching and connecting the heart to the mind."

--Publisher's Weekly


Stephen Addiss serves as Tucker-Boatwright Professor in the Humanities: Art, University of Richmond.

Ray Kass is Emeritus Professor of Art in the School of Visual Art at Virginia Tech and founder and director of the Mountain Lake Workshop.