Brillo Box (3c off) is one of only a handful of yellow Brillo boxes that Andy Warhol produced for an exhibition at the Dwan Gallery in February 1964 and was the first series of wooden box sculptures he ever produced. Warhol first began discussing the idea of a series of wooden boxes in 1962 when he was working on a three-dimensional version of his serial paintings of Campbell soup cans. At about the same time, Warhol's friend and photographer, Edward Wallowitch, took photographs of supermarket boxes stacked one on top of one another, for another sculpture that was never produced. Eighteen months later, Dawn Gallery's John Weber visited Warhol in his studio, and was immediately excited about Warhol's idea of producing the wooden box sculptures. "Your idea of making cardboard boxes is sensationalif they could be finished in three weeks it would help me outif, per chance, you can't make them in time I would like to use the Campbell's soup sculpture" (J. Weber, quoted in G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2004, p. 53.).
The first major discussion of the Brillo Boxes occurred not in any of the art journals, but instead in The Journal of Philosophy. There, as early as 1964, Arthur C. Danto spent a chapter of his essay 'The Artworld', exploring the impact of the Brillo Boxes on the analysis of the time-honored and unanswerable question, 'What is Art?':
'Mr. Andy Warhol, the Pop artist, displays facsimiles of Brillo cartons, piled high, in neat stacks, as in the stockroom of the supermarket. They happen to be made of wood, painted to look like cardboard, and why not? To paraphrase the critic of the Times, if one may make a facsimile of a human being out of bronze, why not the facsimile of a Brillo carton out of plywood?' (A. C. Danto, 'The Artworld' in S. H. Madoff, ed., Pop Art: A Critical History, Berkeley & London, 1997, p. 275).
While this passage appears to vindicate Warhol's choice of subject matter and medium, there was still a public uproar at the nature of these works. However, absurdity was a key ingredient of Warhol's art. By taking the act of representation to this new level, Warhol was managing to question the entire nature of representation and the value of art. Warhol expressly used humble, everyday boxes as his subject matter, in the same way that he had previously used humble, everyday Campbell's Soup cans in his paintings. However, Warhol's sculpture tested the bounds of art in far more dramatic ways. While the Soup Cans shocked the art establishment when they were first exhibited in the Ferus Gallery in 1962 they were clearly pictures, but Brillo Boxes (3c off) and their context in an art gallery combined with their scale and their medium made it clear that they were not imitations of their subjects. Warhol was testing the bounds of suitable subject matter. The Brillo Boxes, which almost completely resemble the cartons that they imitate, are designed to make the judgments about where art begins and ends far more complicated.