The Hort's Gallery encourages gardeners and artists alike to appreciate the creative intersection between art and nature. Exhibitions showcase emerging and established contemporary artists inspired by horticulture, botany, landscape, and the environment.

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By leaves or play of sunlight
John Cage: Artist and Naturalist

April 2 – May 16, 2014

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, April 2nd, 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Curated by Chris Murtha

Presented with the John Cage Trust and the
New York Mycological Society

This exhibition of plant-inspired artworks by John Cage (1912-1992) examines how he applied his chance operations to the natural world. Cage was already well established as a pioneering composer when he became fascinated with mushrooms in the 1950s, but he was so committed to this pursuit, he co-founded the present incarnation of the New York Mycological Society. Nature was central to Cage’s visual art practice; he found particular inspiration in the study of mushrooms and Thoreau’s journal sketches, and his materials included river rocks, smoke, and medicinal plants. The centerpiece of this exhibition is Mushroom Book (1972), a portfolio of lithographs created with mycologist Alexander H. Smith and artist Lois Long, whose botanical illustrations offer a stark contrast to Cage’s prints of overlapping handwritten texts. The show will also include prints that incorporate Thoreau’s drawings and selections from Edible Drawings (1990), a series of handmade papers made with ingredients from the artist’s macrobiotic diet.

Download the press release (PDF), which is written as a mesostic poem, a form that Cage used throughout his career, including in Mushroom Book.

Images: John Cage collecting mushrooms in Grenoble, France, 1972, photo: James Klosty; John Cage (w/Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith), Mushroom Book, 1972, two lithographs from a portfolio of 20, Edition of 75, 30 x 22.5 inches each.


The Hort's exhibitions are supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.