Andy Warhol's Boxes are, in the purest sense, the most Pop works he ever produced. Taking his inspiration from the burgeoning American consumer culture, he continued to replicate the bold and colorful graphics he first produced with his Campbell's Soup Cans. However, this time, instead of silkscreening the images onto paper or canvas, he turned them into three-dimensional sculpture. Moving his images from the wall to the floor, he challenged the art gallery's sanctity and turned the space into something closer to a supermarket. Selecting brands for their graphic design as much as their familiarity, he transforms everyday objects into classic Warhol art works.
Warhol deliberately chose to reproduce boxes of only the most strikingly ordinary and recognizable supermarket products: Kellogg's Cornflakes, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Campbell's tomato juice and, by far the most memorable, Brillo soap pads. Developing the Duchampian notion of the readymade, Warhol had carpenters craft the box sculptures by hand, exactly replicating the cardboard originals in wood. These were then placed on sheets of brown paper on the floor in Warhol's studio on 231 East 47th Street in Manhattan. They were painted with a background color and Warhol and his assistant Gerard Malanga finally silkscreened their sides, so that they looked exactly like their grocery store counterparts. The screens often became clogged and the boxes were splashed with drips of paint, because of the speed with which they screened each box. Warhol regarded these "blemishes" as part of the artistic process and did not remove them, thereby adding a new dimension that became an integral feature in his later work, "For Warhol these mistakes were part of the process. So he never edited anything out. And these two qualities - unedited but mechanically reproduced - became part of the Warhol aesthetic, whatever the medium he might work in" (A. Danto, Andy Warhol, New Haven, 2009, p.60).
As with much of Warhol's art, his Boxes have a strong biographical element, which runs through the work's very heart. Warhol grew up in a deprived area of Pittsburgh, raised by immigrant parents who struggled to survive in their newly adopted country. Warhol was a sickly child and spent many days off school at home with his mother, who doted on him. The breakfast cereal and warm, tasty and nourishing soup that his mother provided was a daily treat for him in an otherwise bleak childhood.
It was as radically new forms of sculpture that Warhol's grocery boxes had their greatest influence however, being an important example of how a series of conceptual issues could be conveyed through the simplest of forms. This feature of the boxes, along with the way in which Warhol had used them as an installation that transformed the gallery space, rather than as individual pieces of sculpture, held great significance for the development of much contemporary American sculpture in the latter half of the 1960s.