Photo Essays

The Emptiness of Art

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

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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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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