Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel: John Cage Plexigrams

John Cage’s Visual Word Constructions on View at Stanford

June 13–November 11, 2012

Stanford, Calif. — John Cage, the most prominent American experimental composer of the 20th century, also creatively explored with visual art forms. Beginning June 13, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents some of his earliest graphic works. The exhibition, which continues through November 11, includes the Sept. 5th centennial of Cage’s birth.

In 1969, Cage created a series of eight “plexigrams” collectively titled “Not Wanting to Say Anything about Marcel,” to honor his good friend and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp who had died in 1968. The title refers to a comment Jasper Johns made to Cage when artists were encouraged to respond in memoriam to Duchamp's death. Johns said, in effect, I don't want to say anything, and Cage used this for his title.

Cage created “Not Wanting to Say Anything about Marcel” at Eye Editions, Cincinnati. Each of the eight constructions, produced in an edition of 125, consists of eight Plexiglas panels silkscreened with images and text, set on edge in a slotted wooden base. Cage determined the content as well as the color and placement by a group of chance outcomes obtained from the Chinese I Ching system. The works are also installed with regard to chance, with the panels in a different order each time the plexigrams are displayed.

In 1973, Stanford acquired four of the eight in the series as a gift from John and Nancy Merryman. The four plexigrams are on view in the Cantor Arts Center’s Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery. The exhibition is made possible by the Lynn Krywick Gibbons Exhibitions Fund.

Stanford’s Music Department celebrates Cage’s centennial with concerts on Oct. 10 and 11 and a symposium on Friday, Oct. 12. Visit for details.

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VISITOR INFORMATION: Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm, Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 pm weekdays and all day on weekends. Information: 650-723-4177,

Publicity Photos: Contact PR Assistant Manager Margaret Whitehorn (650-724-3600, for high-resolution images to publicize the exhibition.

Hear graduate students discuss this work in a Spotlight on Art, on November 9 at 2 pm.

The Music Department celebrates Cage's work with events on October 11 and 12. Learn more.

Watch a video that shows and explains Cage’s plexigrams.


John Cage, Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel II, 1969. Portfolio with eight serigraphs printed on plexiglas panels (plexigram). Gift of John and Nancy Merryman. 1973.25.2.1-11