All posts in “Robert Morris”

Object of the week: Box with the Sound of Its Own Making

Honoring the life and legacy of Robert Morris, who passed away last Wednesday, this week’s Object of the Week highlights his iconic 1961 piece, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making.

A founder of Minimalism, Morris’s 1966 series of essays Notes on Sculpture cemented his reputation as a pioneering sculptor as well as a critical thinker. Among his many contributions to contemporary art of the 1960s and 70s (and beyond) was the prioritization of the relationship between viewer, artwork, and environment. Such hallmarks of Minimalism as repetition, scale, and an absence of expressive content were key elements in many of his works, forcing viewers to consider the spatial arrangement and scale of the sculptures themselves. In the words of New York Times art writer Ken Johnson, “Because the [minimalist] sculptures lacked the complex internal relationships of traditional composition, the viewer would focus on the object’s relationship to the architecture of the room and its effect on his or her perceptual experience of space, light and shape.”[1]

Rebelling against the notion of an artwork as something precious or finely crafted, Morris often worked with simple, everyday materials like plywood, felt, and mirrors. Throughout his decades-long career, Morris worked in a wide array of modes that explored the experiential nature of art and sculptural possibilities of space, ranging from labyrinths and performance to earthworks and environments with sound systems.

Box with the Sound of Its Own Making is an exemplary work in this regard. The piece is, cheekily, exactly what the title suggests: a seemingly ordinary box with a soundtrack of its own construction—three and a half hours of sawing, sanding, and hammering. Morris deftly does away with the mystery of artistic creation, pulling back the curtain to reveal a document of the physical labor necessary to create the work itself. What might otherwise be interpreted as precious, mute, and opaque is, in fact, a dynamic, narrative sculpture that highlights duration, process, and provisionality. See this piece at SAM, on view in Big Picture: Art after 1945.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] Ken Johnson, ‘Robert Morris, 87, Dies; Founding Minimalist Sculptor With Manifold Passions,” The New York Times, November 29, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/29/obituaries/robert-morris-dead.html.
Image: Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, 1961, Robert Morris, wood, internal speaker, wooden cube: 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 in., overall: 46 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4in.; TRT 3.5 hours, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, 82.190 © Estate of Robert Morris
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Muse/News: A princess at SAM, Jimi in Seattle, and a return to form

SAM News

Reads this review by Nalini Iyer for The International Examiner of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Peacock in the Desert offers Seattle a wonderful opportunity to experience Indian history, culture, and art and will appeal to visitors of all ages.”

And watch Princess Shivranjani Rajye of Marwar-Jodhpur share why she thinks our exhibition is so special.

Local News

Seattle Magazine has a great list of event recommendations for the month of December—mark your calendars, buy tickets, go to there.

“I Returned to The Nutcracker as an adult.” Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne watches the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker and floats between its various worlds.

Daudi Abe for Crosscut reviewing Bold As Love, the new exhibition at the Northwest African American Museum that explores Jimi Hendrix’s Seattle roots.

“The display highlights Hendrix’s quintessential experience growing up in the Central District—from a photo of 5-year-old Jimi at a family picnic at Leschi Park to some of his impressive drawings that include what appears to be the Miss Circus Circus hydroplane.”

Inter/National News

Mwatana for Human Rights has released a document—titled “The Degradation of History”—that lists 34 archeological and cultural heritage sites that have been damaged in war-torn Yemen.

Artnet reports: “The American sculptor Robert Morris, a shape-shifting artist, `and pioneer of minimalism, has died of pneumonia at an upstate New York hospital. He was 87.”

The New York Times on the just-released report that calls for France to return pieces of African cultural heritage to their home countries; there have already been initial responses from African officials.

“France holds at least 90,000 sub-Saharan artifacts, of which 70,000 are in the Quai Branly Museum. The report estimated that up to 95 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is held by institutions outside of Africa.”

And Finally

A compelling piece of post-post-modern video art about those now 7-5 (!) Seahawks.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Peacock in the Desert: the Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman
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SAMart: A Box, some sounds, and a lecture

A member of New York’s avant-garde in the early 1960s, Robert Morris famously experimented with the perceptual and intellectual issues that fueled Minimalism and Conceptual art.  He rebelled against the notion of the artwork as a precious, handcrafted original object, arguing that art could also be the embodiment of the idea from which it was conceived.  Box with the Sound of Its Own Making was a landmark work: A small cube assembled from walnut boards, containing a recording that allows viewers to hear the piece being constructed.  The viewer looks at a completed product and hears the process of its making. 

 

Jonathan Monk has been active on the international contemporary art scene since the early 1990s. His recent practice has primarily focused on reinterpreting the avant-garde of the 1960s. Often taking iconic works of Conceptual, Minimal, and Pop art as his starting points, his work makes playful commentary on the ideas that defined a previous generation while simultaneously attempting to pin down the values of our own. The Sound of Music makes a direct connection with one of the most celebrated works within the Seattle Art Museum’s collection, Robert Morris’ seminal Box with the Sound of its Own Making.

One innocent-looking box and how it changed the course of art—Robert Morris: Box with the Sound of Its Own Makingwith Catharina Manchanda
Members Art History Lecture Series: New Perspectives
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
7–9 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown

The Sound of Music ( A record with the sound of its own making*), 2007, Jonathan Monk (English, born 1969), record, silkscreen print on paper, and black and white photograph, each element: 12 x 12 in., Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright, 2008.8. © Jonathan Monk. Not currently on view.
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