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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Box with the Sound of Its Own Making

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Box with the Sound of Its Own Making


Robert Morris

American, 1931 - 2018

This wooden box contains a sound recording that documents the making of this work from start to finish. Hammering, sawing, and sanding give way to prolonged silences. This influential work initiated a shift in art from objects to be looked at to production processes and the experience of time. The artist says that one of the few people who listened to the entire recording was the composer John Cage.
Wood, internal speaker
Wooden Cube: 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. (24.8 x 24.8 x 24.8cm)
Overall: 46 x 9 3/4 x 9 3/4in. (116.8 x 24.8 x 24.8cm); TRT 3.5 hours
Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection
Provenance: [Green Gallery, New York, New York]; purchased from gallery by Virginia and Bagley Wright, Seattle, Washington, October 29, 1963, until 1982
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryVancouver, British Columbia, University of British Columbia, UBC Fine Arts Gallery, Art Becomes Reality, Jan. 29 - Feb. 8, 1964.

Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. C. Bagley Wright: Twentieth Century American and European Paintings and Sculpture, Nov. 8 - Dec. 6, 1964. Cat. no. 37.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Robert Morris, 1970.

Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Museum of Art, Robert Morris, 1970.

London, Tate Gallery, Robert Morris, 1971.

San Diego, California, Mandeville Center for the Arts, University of California San Diego, Sense of Reference, (opening exhibition), Mar. 7-16, 1975.

Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, Masterworks in Wood: The Twentieth Century, Sept. 16 - Oct. 19, 1975.

Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Sculpture: American Directions 1945-1975, Oct. 3 - Nov. 30, 1975 (Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Jan. 7 - Feb. 28, 1976; New Orleans, Louisiana, Mar. 31 - May 16, 1976).

Pullman, Washington, Museum of Art, Washington State University, Two Decades Of American Sculpture-From Northwest Collections, Fall, 1977.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Sight and Sound, Spring, 1979.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Center, Pop and Minimal Artists—Then and Now, Sept. 17, 1979 - Aug. 15, 1980.

Cologne, Germany, International Exhibition Cologne 1981, Westkunst/Contemporary Art Since 1939, May 29 - Aug. 16, 1981.

Purchase, New York, Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, College at Purchase, Soundings, Sept. 20 - Dec. 23, 1981.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, American Sculpture: Three Decades, Nov. 15, 1984 - Jan. 27, 1985. Back cover.

Polanco, Mexico, Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporaneo, Leo Castelli y Sus Artistas, June 25 - Oct. 18, 1987.

Hempstead, New York, The Edith C. Blum Art Institute, The Tao of Contemporary Art, Hofstra Museum, Sept. 16 - Nov. 18, 1990 (Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, Bard College, The Edith C. Blum Art Institute, Dec. 2, 1990 - Feb. 14, 1991; Salina, Kansas, Salina Art Center, Feb. 24 - May 20, 1991; Houston, Texas, Blauffer Gallery, University of Houston, June 1 - Aug. 20, 1991; Sacramento, California, Crocker Art Museum, Sept. 6 - Oct. 30, 1991; Laguna, California, Laguna Art Museum, Nov. 28, 1991-Feb. 9, 1992).

New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem, Feb. 3 - May 1, 1994 (Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany, Mar. 10 - May 7, 1995; Paris, France, Centre Georges Pompidou, July 4 - Oct. 23, 1995). Text by Rosalind E. Krauss, Maurice Berger, David Antin, et al. Robert Morris: the Mind/Body Problem. No cat. no., pp. 104-105, reproduced fig. 11.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Five Installations on the Fourth Floor: Varieties of Sculpture, June 26, 1997 - Mar. 31, 1998.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection of Modern Art, Mar. 4 - May 5, 1999.

Bellingham, Washington, Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Decades of Giving: Virginia Wright and Sculpture at Western, Sept. 27 - Oct. 13, 1999.

Leeds, England, Henry Moore Institute, 2003.

Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art, Work Ethic, Oct. 12, 2003 - Aug. 11, 2004

New York, Museum of Arts and Design, Against the Grain, Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design, Sept. 1, 2012 - Jan. 6, 2013 (Charlotte, North Carolina, Mint Museum, Feb. 5 - June 16, 2013). Text by Lowery Stokes Sims and Elisabeth Kirrane. No cat. no., p. 10, reproduced fig 1.

Saint Louis, Missouri, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Art of Its Own Making, Feb. 14 - Aug. 20, 2014. Reproduced on opening invitation. Text by Kristina Van Dyke. Cat. no. 3, reproduced pp. 14-15.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Mar. 18 - Sept. 4, 2016. Text by Kelly Baum, et al. No cat. no., p. 304, reproduced pl. 189, p. 235.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Sound Affect, Apr. 27, 2019 - Feb. 2, 2020.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle, Oct. 23, 2020 - Jan. 18, 2021.
Published ReferencesCompton, Michael. "Robert Morris", Tate Gallery, London, 1971.

Ratcliff, Carter. "Robert Morris: Prisoner of Modernism." Art in America, October 1979.

Glozer, L. "Westkunst: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939", Köln, 1981

Sanborn, John and Kit Fitzgerald, "Arts-on-Television: Soundings", 1981 (video)

Neuberger Museum, "Soundings", SUNY-Purchase, 1981 (catalogue)

Museum of Contemporary Art, "Robert Morris: Works of the Eighties", MCA, Chicago, 1986

Littman, Roberto et al, "Leo Castelli y sus artistas: XXX años de promocion del arte contemporaneo. 26 June–18 October 1987", Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, 1987

Waldman, Diane, Collage, Assemblage, and the Found Object", Harry N. Abrams, New York, NY, 1992, ill. p.300

Larson, Kay, "Mind Field," New York Magazine, February 21, 1994, p. 56.

Burcharth, Ewa Lajer, "Genders: Janine Antoni", winter 1997

Danto, Arthur C. After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998; reproduced p. 80.

Stephanie Jamet-Chavigny and Francoise Levailant, "L'Art De L'Assemblage Relectures", Presses Universitaired de Rennes, 2011, pg.147

Copeland, Huey. "Glenn Ligon and Other Runaway Subjects." Representations 113 (Winter 2011): p. 99.

Migone, Christof. "Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body." Audio Issues vol. 5 (2012): p. 9.

Rinuy, Paul-Louis. Espace, mouvement et son dans la sculpture de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2009; p. 25.

Roberts, Veronica, ed. Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt. Austin, Texas: Blanton Museum of Art, in association with London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014; p. 37, reproduced p. 36.

Enwezor, Okwui, et al. Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965. Exh. Cat. Munich: Stiftung Haus der Kunst München, 2016; p. 515, reproduced fig. 210 [not in exhibition].

Weiss, Jeffrey. Robert Morris: Object Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013; p. 85, reproduced pl. 3.

Celant, Germano. Art or Sound. Exh. Cat. Venice: Fondazione Prada, 2014; p. 221 [not in exhibition].

Ward, David C., et al. The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2016; p. 51, reproduced fig. 3.1.

Tani, Ellen. Second Sight: The Paradox of Vision in Contemporary Art. Exh. Cat. Brunswick: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2018; p. 29, reproduced fig. 14 [not in exhibition].

Welchman, John C. Richard Jackson. Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2020; p. 212, reproduced fig. 5.47.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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