John Cage STEPS 1989
In February of 1989 John Cage returned to Virginia as a guest of Radford University, which is located near Mountain Lake, to attend an exhibition of his New River Watercolors painted the previous year. In the weeks preceding when experimenting with new materials and techniques for another watercolor painting workshop at Mountain Lake, Cage and his collaborators built e a 56-inch-wide brush by connecting eight 7-inch-wide Asia- style “hake” brushes to a simple wooden armature; he also made a large mixing trough with which to load the brush with paint. The sheer size of the brush suggested many new possibilities, which was important for Cage to get involved in a project if it provided a new situation for exploration;
By its very nature, this brush certainly did offer new possibilities. Another impetus for agreeing to do a new painting project was something similar to Robert Rauschenberg’s 1953 Automobile Tire Print — a work in which Cage had collaborated by driving a car with an inked rear tire down a length of connected pieces of paper — but this time without the car.
Kass said it could be a kind of homage to Rauschenberg. However it was to be a kind of “Zen” painting featuring the isolated imprints of Cage’s feet and, like 12th-century Chinese Sung paintings of lonely travelers among remote mountains and streams, it would raise the timeless image of a solitary figure walking in nature.
John Cage, Soul of One Foot for Ray Kass, 1989, watercolor and ink on rag paper, 16 x 26.75 in. (40.6 x 68 cm)
John Cage’s STEPS: A Composition for a Painting, 1989, watercolor and ink on rag paper, 72 x 208 in. (182.88 x 528.32 cm) Collection: Bremen Kunsthalle, Bremen, Germany