There’s only one thing that all art has in common: a frame.
The frame may be made of metal or wood or it may be purely conceptual, but it is a perimeter that defines where the art ends and the rest of the world begins. No matter how outlandish or varied the art is, no matter whether it is an antique painting or the latest performance art, it is always framed by a boundary that separates the art from the rest of the natural world.
It’s pretty easy to locate the borders of a work of art if it’s on a piece of paper or canvas. However, some artists provoke their audience to think by playing tricks with the location of that border. The great Saul Steinberg jumped off the paper and created illusions, drawing on a bathtub:
or a box:
The clever artist Peter Callesen escapes the bonds of the page another way:
Even the art of Andy Goldsworthy, who makes temporary sculptures in nature using all natural materials, depends on his framing a space where he makes aesthetic choices and alters the natural order of things for the consideration of the viewer:
A few inches to the right or left of this sculpture there are rocks balanced on each other that are not art, but this one has became art because of the conceptual frame around it offered by Goldsworthy. The iconoclast Jean Dubuffet dreams of a day when there is no longer a thing named “art” because the frame is gone:
What is true of art is true of many other things whose virtues fly away as soon as their names are spoken…. [I]t is quite probable that soon the painting, a rectangle hung with a nail on a wall, will become an outdated and ridiculous object– a fruit fallen from the tree of culture and henceforth considered an antique….[T}he notion of art… will have ceased to be conceived of and perceived when the mind will have ceased to project art as a notion to be gazed upon, and art will be integrated in such a manner that thought, instead of facing it, will be inside it….
Until we live in Dubuffet’s utopia, the role of art will continue to depend in part on where we draw the frame .
THE IMPORTANCE OF A FRAME