Robert Morris

Location Piece

1973

Medium
Lead and aluminuim on board
Dimensions
Object: 537 x 537 x 38 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1974
Reference
P07235

Summary

Location Piece is a square grey relief sculpture shown mounted on the wall at eye level. A dull lead sheet covers a base made of composite board, and metallic elements are fixed to the surface. Small meters with adjustable numeric values have been attached near all four edges. The numbers on the meters correspond to the distance in feet from the work to the nearest walls, ceiling and floor, as described by the aluminium text and arrows that accompany them. The prominent inscription in the centre of the panel, reading ‘LOCATION’, is also made of aluminium relief in a generic, capitalised serif font.

Made in 1973, Location Piece has its origins in a 1963 work by Morris entitled Location (Tate T13351). Although the composition of the two works is virtually identical, the earlier Location was executed in grey oil paint on canvas and the meters provide the only relief element. Morris had abandoned painting in the late 1950s, and made his first sculptures after moving to New York City in 1961. Location was among a substantial group of small, monochrome works made between 1961 and 1965 that reflected a strong interest in the art of Marcel Duchamp. Morris favoured industrial materials such as lead or wood, and often incorporated banal, functional objects (like the meters) that he found in hardware stores on nearby Canal Street. In the early 1970s Morris started to remake some of his earlier sculptures as multiples. Tate’s version of Location Piece is the third in an edition of seventeen fabricated by Morris’s assistant George Finsrud in 1973.

The painted prototype for Location Piece is among a series of works made in 1963 that register Morris’s fascination with numerical measurement. Perhaps inspired by Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages 1913–4 (Tate T07507), works such as Swift Night Ruler 1963 (Anne and Wolfgang Titze Collection) include handmade rulers that flout expectations of accuracy. By contrast, Location and Location Piece offer correct measurements, with the numbers displayed by the meters altered each time they are reinstalled. With its colourless, anonymous style and deadpan self-referentiality, Location Piece challenges expectations of art as a form of expression. By drawing attention to the physical context of its display and the viewing position of the spectator, it invites consideration of art’s spatial and institutional contingency. As Morris commented in 1986 of his early sculptures: ‘I was bored with the deaf and dumb objects of high modernism, objects which, more or less, have refused to accept their transitive and conditional status’. (Quoted in Maurice Berger, Labyrinths: Robert Morris, Minimalism, and the 1960s, New York 1989, p.22.)

Such issues continued to inform Morris’s practice throughout the 1960s and 1970s as it shifted towards the monumental minimalist and postminimalist sculpture for which he became internationally recognised. In 1971 Tate held a retrospective of the artist’s work which featured a site-specific, participatory installation that became notorious for attracting dangerously exuberant public responses; following a number of injuries, the museum closed this section of the exhibition to visitors. Tate acquired Location Piece in 1974 following its exhibition at New York’s Sonnabend Gallery.

Further reading
Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1994, reproduced p.132 (as Location 1963).
Christophe Chernix, Robert Morris: Estampes et Multiples 1952–1998, Geneva 1999, p.119.
Jeffrey Weiss with Clare Davies, Robert Morris: Object Sculpture 1960–1965, New Haven and London 2013, p.118.

Hilary Floe
May 2016

Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Display caption

Location draws attention to the relationship between a work and its immediate surroundings. Four small arrows point towards the floor, the ceiling, and the walls on either side of the work. When it is positioned in the gallery, the meters next to each arrow are adjusted to register the distance in feet to the edge of the room. As well as precisely recording the location of the work, these measurements make viewers aware of their own relation to the space.

Gallery label, October 2016

Catalogue entry

Robert Morris born 1931

P07235 Location Piece 1973

Not inscribed
Lead over composite board, with aluminium letters and arrows, and metallic meters, 21 1/8 x 21 1/8 x 1 (53.5 x 53.5 x 2.7)
Purchased from the artist through the Sonnabend Gallery (Grant-in Aid) 1974
Exh: Robert Morris, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, March-April 1974 (no catalogue)

This is a multiple, number 3 out of an edition of 17, which was published by Robert Morris and fabricated in his New York studio. In the last years Morris has begun to remake a few of his earlier pieces in editions of from 3 to 17.

The first version of this piece, now in the Mr and Mrs Robert C. Scull collection, New York, was made in 1963 and measures 24 x 24in (61 x 61cm). It is in oil paint on a wood panel, with metallic meters. The letters and arrows are painted, whereas in the multiple they are in aluminium, in relief.

The four arrows point upwards to the ceiling, down to the floor and sideways towards the two adjacent walls. The meters alongside them are meant to be adjusted to show the distance in feet in these four main directions and thereby tabulate the location of this work on the wall surface. When first shown at the Sonnabend Gallery in 1974, three of these pieces were hung in one of the gallery spaces, each noting different measurements.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.545, reproduced p.545