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Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing), Day One

1978 John Cage Born: Los Angeles, California 1912 Died: 1992 Stephen Thomas (Printer) Lilah Toland (Printer) Crown Point Press (Publisher) Donald Farnsworth (Papermaker) hard ground etching and drypoint 12 x 16 7/8 in. (30.5 x 42.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Moses Lasky 2004.32.5.1 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

John Cage began making prints after a long and distinguished career as a musical composer. When he was invited Crown Point Press in San Francisco, he called upon ideas and principles he had used as a musician: the development of an idea over time, reliance on chance, the privileging of process over representation, and what he called “the social habits of musicians…the division of labor.”
The title of this series refers to the seven-day period over which he made the prints, completing one each day. When he began, he did not know the technical aspects of the printmaking processes he was going to use, but learned them as he worked with assistance from the professional printers. Over the course of seven days, he tried all the processes available to him at Crown Point Press. He chose a paper he liked as well as the horizontal format and the size of the margins. He selected modest sized copper plates that floated within a twelve-inch central square, and determined the size and shape of his plates by consulting his I Ching charts. His attitudes developed from his studies of Zen Buddhism. By creating a sense of emptiness, he expressed visually the Zen state of “not knowing.”

Multiplicity, 2011



graphic arts - print

paper - wove paper - rives


About John Cage

Born: Los Angeles, California 1912 Died: 1992

About Stephen Thomas

About Lilah Toland

About Crown Point Press

About Donald Farnsworth

Born: Palo Alto, California 1952

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