In The Brillo Box Archive, Michael J. Golec situates the image of the Brillo(R) box at the intersection of design, aesthetics, and art history, tracking the familiar household item from the kitchen, to the art world, and into a critical and theoretical discourse. This tripartite approach posits the Brillo(R) box as a record, an archive of mid-twentieth-century visual and industrial culture. While the Brillo(R) box was a fixture in American homes beginning in the early twentieth century, a 1961 redesign by James Harvey imbued the red and blue box with a new wave of Cold War-era patriotic values and the promise of domestic efficiency. The subsequent ubiquity of Harvey's apropos design thrust the quotidian object headlong into the realm of art, prompting both Arthur Danto and Andy Warhol to adopt the box as a source of philosophical and artistic inspiration. Golec's interdisciplinary approach to the archive of modernity investigates the progression from industrial design to artistic reinterpretation to aesthetic theory. Warhol's appropriation of Harvey's design, employing his considerable reputation and imagination to reanimate the cardboard containers as pieces of Pop art rather than mere storage devices, opened the door for contemporary art critic Arthur Danto's assertions about the relationship between artwork and referent, inspiration and appropriation. This unique and truly interdisciplinary work will appeal to scholars of art history, design history, visual culture studies, and aesthetics.
MICHAEL J. GOLEC is an Assistant Professor of art and design history at Iowa State University. He is the author of American Design Culture (forthcoming) and the co-editor of Instruction and Provocation, or Relearning from Las Vegas.