Ray Kass

Artist & Founder — Mt Lake Workshop


John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures

Ray Kass (with Stephen Addiss), University of Richmond and George Braziller Co., NY, 2009



This book brings together fifty never-before-seen images made in collaboration with renowned artist and composer John Cage, revealing the powerful influence of Zen in his life and work. These exquisite artifacts date from the 1988 Mountain Lake Workshop, where they were preparatory studies  for greater endeavors by Cage.  Now, nearly two decades later, these images have been utilized in a new collaboration as illustrations enlivening the classic “Ten Ox-Herding Pictures.”  The story of this collaboration draws upon resources from Cage’s visual art, lectures, poetry, and the reflections of his colleagues and students.

Mountain Lake Workshop founder and director Ray Kass (who first recognized the beauty of these artifacts) and Stephen Addiss (scholar, artist, and student of Cage) provide introductory essays, discussing their own experiences with the collaboration. Juxtaposing Cage’s meditative studies with the “Ten Ox-Herding Pictures,” a series of images that has been used to communicate the essence of Zen for nearly one thousand years, the authors also explore fragments of Cage’s poetry and his many statements about Zen practice. These explorations provide a fascinating lens through which the reader can view the Mountain Lake Workshop images, allowing us to see them as mysterious echoes of the centuries-old “Ten Ox-Herding Paintings” themselves—images about searching for, finding, and returning from the path to enlightenment.


Known best for his music and performances, John Cage also painted and wrote extensively. Zen Buddhism influenced his approach to his work—nature as a path to self, collaboration in performance and happenstance in composition. The art and poetry in this book represent a collaboration both accidental and deliberate between Cage, Addiss and Kass. Cage was working on another series of paintings when he marked a series of brown paper towels. Artist Kass and artist/composer Addiss ordered the towels into a sequence, then Addiss culled Cage's writings to create a cutup or recomposition of found words and phrases into a new work. Cage recognized the importance of the remix long before it became fashionable. The accidental circumstances of this work's assemblage doesn't diminish its charm or delicacy. The introductory material provides essential context, but the best approach may be to read and view the work, read the essays, then review the piece again. Addiss and Kass prove the continuing relevance of the tradition of ox-herding as a format for teaching and connecting the heart to the mind. 50 color and 12 b&w illus. (Oct.) 

        —Publishers Weekly


Hiles, Rachel. "Books in Brief Spring 2010" Tricycle, Spring, 2010

Wei, Lilly. "Zen and Now" ArtNews, December, 2009

John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures” Publishers Weekly, October 1, 2009


Product Details

Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: George Braziller Inc.; First Edition
Publish Date: October 7, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080761601X
ISBN-13: 978-0615401805
Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 8.7 x 0.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds 

Copyright © 2015 Ray Kass & Mountain Lake Workshop. All Rights Reserved.