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René Magritte, “Les Charmes du Paysage” (The delights of landscape) (1929), oil on canvas, 54 x 73 cm (via

Many people love art for its power to transport, whether through a painting that brings us to the banks of the Seine in 19th-century France or an installation that immerses us in a fanciful and imagined alternate world. But what about when art refuses to carry us away, offering instead only blank space, an empty frame staring back at us?

A wonderful page on Radical Art has a collection of such frames — painted and constructed, illusionistic and real, bounding wall space and empty galleries. The grouping got us thinking about the many different ways in which a frame can be “empty,” and about our relationship with art; many of these pieces feel like volleys on the part of the artists, throwing the ball of imagination into the viewer’s court. “Picture it yourselves,” they seem to say. “See what’s in and around you through your own lens.”

Drawing on Radical Art’s collection, and a similar one on Lost Painters, we’ve compiled here some of our favorites in the category. There are more on both sites, and undoubtedly more beyond that — feel free to submit them in the comments below.

Jil Weinstock, “Green Frame Tableau” (2008), pigmented cast rubber, 50 x 90 x 2 in (via Walter Maciel Gallery)

Imi Knoebel, “Keilrahmen” (1968–69), wood, 11.8 x 11.8 x 0.8 in / 30 x 30 x 2 cm (via Artnet)

Michelangelo Pistoletto, “Quadro da pranzo (Oggetti in meno)” (Lunch painting [Minus objects]) (1965), wood, 78.75 × 81.75 × 17.375 in (courtesy Walker Art Center, © Michelangelo Pistoletto)

Mirosław Bałka, “193 x 256 x 100” (2005), steel, disinfectant tablets, dimensions same as title in centimeters (via Nordenhake)

Isa Genzken, “Fenster” (Window) (1992), epoxy resin, steel. and concrete, 540 x 300 x 100 cm (courtesy Hauser & Wirth, © Isa Genzken)

Stephen Antonakos, “Blue Box” (1965) (photo by Marc Wathieu, via Flickr)

Alighiero e Boetti, “Niente da vedere niente da nascondere” (Nothing to see nothing to hide) (1969/1986), iron and glass, 118 1/8 x 156 1/2 x 1 1/4 in / 300 x 397.5 x 3.2 cm (via Gladstone Gallery)

Roy Lichtenstein, “Stretch Frame with Crossbars III” (1968), oil and magna on canvas, 48 x 56 in (photo by Peter Eimon, via Flickr)

h/t @cmonstah

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

3 replies on “The Emptiness of Art”

  1. seen this one? sometimes a frame does not necessarily speaks about the emptiness inside it, as I always say in my artistic and theoretical practice, it can be filled with memories, as a mnemotechnic result of the perception of the artwork or the art experience… shes lovely 29 years old in many collections, Running in Adidas, not Art stalled or mindstalled or bullied or stalker by mercers, erics, chimps, poppys, lying retards, betowankenobi, armies, not with worms or Art stallers, the Lobera has many many many many interesting projects JUST HERS… of her ownership her thinking, not physically beaten like me for being an ARTIST and envious people running behind me stalking me… etc

  2. Using the frame, or the back of the canvas, is a way to draw attention to the physical reality of the painting, not so much an invitation to dream off into your own reality, but to be actually present in the now. I wrote a bit about this for the edition ‘the adoration of the magi’ by Taylor Holland on my gallery The File Arts:

    That work started off as a series of digital images, but now they are being produced as physical objects:

    On the gallery Tumblr I assembled a collection of other works using frames as well; in part also from the same / wonderful ‘Radical art’.

  3. Just not my thing: but then again, I suffer from horror vacui. I’d like to see a Relational piece where such sufferers as myself would actually be invited to draw/paint within the frames.

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