“PK: The Guggenheim catalogue notes that your rope pieces of 1962–64 ‘reflect a boyhood interest in the art of tying knots.’ Can you tell us anything more about this interest, and its retrospective meaning for you?
RM: I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Kansas City which was not always the gentlest of environments. I had joined the Boy Scout group that met at our grade school, Graceland, on 51st and Montgall, on Tuesday evenings. At the second meeting I attended, on a balmy early September evening, the older scouts mutinied (I never knew why) and threw Mr. Garrett, the scoutmaster, down a flight of stairs and out into the school yard. The scout troop was dissolved. As I had been in the Cub Scouts (without any violent incidents occurring) and had made a knot board – oval in design with the basic knots tied in 3/8-inch hemp rope and carefully tacked to the shellacked board – I had looked forward to the Boy Scouts as a place primarily to tie advanced knots. I had hoped one day to achieve a mastery approaching my father’s magic with splices and double sheet bends. This was not to be. Shortly after I finished high school my mother revealed to me that in cleaning out the old chicken house she had discarded my Cub Scout oval knot board. Now the living record of even my basic, primitive knot knowledge was erased. Frustration. Loss. The return of the repressed, etc., etc.”
(Robert Morris, interviewed by Pepe Karmel in Art in America, June 1995.