John Cage is best known as an avant-garde composer, but in his youth he was drawn to both art and music. At the insistence of his teacher Arnold Schoenberg, he decided to devote himself exclusively to music, and didn't take up art again seriously until the latter part of his life. But Cage's scores were always very graphic and visually inventive and he was always closely associated with visual artists. In 1969 he was commissioned to do a work to commemorate the death of Marcel Duchamp. He created a series of lithographs on Plexiglas he called Plexigrams (one of which is on view in Fast Forward II in Gallery 6 through February 9). The largest body of his visual art, however, is in the medium of intaglio printing. Invited to make prints at Crown Point Press in Oakland in 1978, he returned nearly every year until his death in 1992. In many ways printmaking was the perfect medium for Cage, as he liked to work in overlapping layers, rather than linearly. On view in a new exhibition in the Theater Gallery are a selection of Cage's etchings and drypoints, along with preparatory maps and scores for one of his most complex prints, Changes and Disappearances (1979-1981), and a selection of other prints created at Crown Point Press. To avoid being influenced by his personal likes and dislikes, Cage relied on chance operations to aid his decision making in creating visual art. "Chance operations are a way of silencing the ego so that the rest of the world has a chance to enter into the ego's own experience," he wrote. Chance was not a method to avoid making choices. Rather, he said, "my choices consist (of) choosing what questions to ask." Cage derived the answers to his queries from the Chinese book of wisdom, the I-Ching , to make selections among the variables involved in a project. The maps and scores give an indication of the intricacy and precision of Cage's working method, belying the common misconception that he approached his work randomly. Cage's art was influenced by his music, which he also composed using chance operations. His art could also influence his music. The simple and refined fifteenth-century Japanese rock garden Ryoanji first surfaced as an influence in Concert for Piano Orchestra in 1957, then in his drypoint print R3 in 1983, then again in his music in Ryoanji , 1983-85. Given that nonintentionality was Cage's guiding principle, it may come as a surprise that there is a consistency throughout his visual work. This can be attributed in part to the types of basic elements and procedures Cage established as he began a work. Though he varied the forms, colors, and techniques from project to project, his open-ended strategies resulted in the sense of a moment snatched from the continuous flow of life itself, as if whatever is occurring on the page is continuing outside its physical borders. As music is indistinguishable from sound in Cage's philosophy, so art consists of framing a fragment of the visual field as a method to increase awareness of life as it is being lived. "The usefulness of the useless is good news for artists," he observed. "For art serves no useful purpose. It has to do with changing minds and spirits."