The late John Cage is enjoying a moment in D.C. this summer, as organizations around Washington gear up for a celebration of his 100th birthday on Sept. 5. Experimental music festival Sonic Circuits, for example, hosted a performance of several Cage compositions at the Kennedy Center to close out May. But that’s the Cage you expect—music, not-music, or anti-music, Cage traditionally takes place on a stage. The Phillips Collection is introducing viewers to a different format for the 20th-century visionary: watercolors. As part of the John Cage Centennial Festival, the museum is showing a series of paintings made by the artist at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Workshop in the late ’80s. Cage allowed the ancient Chinese text The Book of Changes to dictate the way the paintings took shape: where marks should appear and with what sort of wash. Whatever the merits of the paintings themselves, the medium is almost perfect for Cage: The best watercolors are defined by their accidents.
John Cage’s paintings are on view 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays–Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 9 at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. $12. phillipscollection.org. (202) 387-2151.