DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Framing Absence

Filed under: Photography: Framing — Tags: , , , — fred @ 21:13

Window Wall, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A frame makes a picture.  A frame that is around nothing makes something of that nothing.  Most people probably never look out a window with no view, but if you take the frame’s cue and view this brick wall as a view, it is a rather intense study in texture and light.

I’ve always found something compelling in “empty” frames.  Here are a few of them.

Now Showing, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

An empty frame is a memento mori, a reminder of mortality, a window on nothingness that tells us there was once something where now there is nothing.

Red on Blue, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

A big red box frames something – maybe a keyhole? – and, combined with shadows from a scaffold, makes an abstract painting of a blank blue wall.

Dots, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here was once a fine locking glass poster case.  Then it became a community bulletin board.  Then someone pulled down the bulletins, leaving behind scraps of tape.  Now it is a sad cabinet of glass, empty inside and marred outside.  Or you can look at it as a jaunty composition of colored dots and tape on a transparent surface.

Boutique, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront once attracted window shoppers with provocatively posed mannequins in garish urban fashions.  A sagging tarp, blue and dusty, hangs there as the flag of failure.

Billboard Support, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A vivid golden sculpture rising into the gray sky is so much more appealing than would be another commercial message.

Caution No Floor, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything has been done to make this once inviting store entrance forbidding:  paint splattered on the inside of the glass, a steel gate, caution tape, and a spray-painted sign that says “Caution No Floor”.  Here is the gate to hell, it would appear.

Exit ACE. 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Peel, scrape, erase – all but a remnant of a baby’s face.

Glass Frame, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a little vitrine on a Subway platform where the Transit Authority posts notifications to commuters.  Someone tagged the glass with some clearish substance, creating a piece of abstract expressionism in subtle tones of translucency on transparency, casting faint shadows on a dully reflective aluminum back plate.

Now Serving Soup!, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

This frame was not an empty frame until the clumping snow made it so.  You can still read the message “Now Serving Soup!” – just what you’d want on a blizzardy day.

Chalked Plates, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kids with street chalk clearly saw this textured steel access plate as a frame, and decided to fill it in with colors.

Wet Cardboard, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Here’s a double frame made of an upside-down box spring and a piece of blue-edged cardboard that maybe used to be behind a mirror or a picture.  In its demise, this piece of cardboard has finally become a picture itself, as the moisture has stained it with something that looks like a misty watercolor painting of mountains.  The hard-edged multiple framing really emphasizes the pictorial quality of the cardboard, as a fancy inset double mat might enhance a soft picture.

Triptych, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

A triple window of water-stained board becomes a holy triptych.  “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.   And God called the firmament Heaven.  And the evening and the morning were the second day.  And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.   And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the third day.”

Red Rectangle, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Will humanity one day emulate and extend the act of creation, seeding life on Mars or other planets?  Or will we destroy ourselves in the fire of our own consumptiveness?

Blinds, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Someone who likes to hide in shadows got a building made for putting things on display, and so they put their depression and decay on display.

Rectangles and Diagonals, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

The paper in these windows, raked with shadows from an awning frame, looks like a silken kimono decorated with delicate diagonal stripes.

You Us We Now, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This scraped poster has remnants that suggest a landscape, with brown below and blue above.  The black shapes in the lower left seem to be figures sitting in the landscape.

Blue Rectangle, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Here on a plywood fence the artistic battle between figuration and abstraction is being waged.

White on Black, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

I almost think I can read a message in this remnant in poster paste, but it’s illegible, a distorted echo, a white shadow.

Stone, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

An artificial texture reminiscent of coral, surrounded in a bold rectilinear frame, marks this stone.  From a distance, it’s just a random pattern, like camouflage, but looked at closely it has a great writhing energy.

Empty Display, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront window between displays is the stage of a shabby rundown theater in an entertainment district the cool people no longer frequent.

Antidepressant, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think maybe this window is supposed to be a conceptual art installation, but it doesn’t look much different from the definitely unintentional depressing empty windows elsewhere in this post.  I like how the neon sign casts its shadow on the plywood – the shadow of light.  This was a storefront window in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The artist is unknown to me – let me know if you know.

Dusty Window with Rubber Cement, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

This dusty window depicts an encounter between a rather rigid character whose plaid slacks are seen in the lower left pane, and an angel of anunciation, descending from heaven in the middle upper frame.

Restaurant, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Paper is often used to block the windows of defunct businesses.  Fallen paper, rumpled and stained behind the glass, is an emblem of fragility and collapse, but the rest of the world goes on, and that outside beauty is also seen in the glass, in reflection.

Van Windows, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kind of film has been applied inside these van windows to block the interior from outside peering.  The sun (?) has caused this fascinating pattern of cracks, both dark and light, to appear in the film.  It reminds me of the tessellation of a dried lake bed.

Pink Window, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Notice how much more cheerful satiny pink fabric is in a covered display window, compared with the dusty blinds, tarps, or collapsing paper seen in other images of this post.  But it doesn’t completely overcome the depressing aspect of a shrouded display case.  If the window showed us a colorful piñata donkey, or a tin man made of stovepipe, with the pink fabric behind, that would liven it up nicely.

Window, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think this one may be a bathroom window.  The glass is frosted and there seem to be little shelves and a towel up against the window.  The frames always make me see these empty windows as abstract or minimalist compositions.

Governors Island Window, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a view looking out from a window by the waterfront on New York’s Governors Island.  The simplicity of this view, with tree branches in front of silvery water, is another lovely minimalist composition, made so by its frame.

Niche, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Something – a bust or a plaque, perhaps, surely once occupied this niche flanked by cornucopias and wreathed with ornate floral decorations.  Now it is a beautiful monument to the mystery of the void.  The gaps are where imagination comes to life, where memory and potential coexist.  Sometimes our world is overfilled with stuff and messages and sensations.  I value the absences, the empty spaces, the shells left behind by things that are gone.  The frame around emptiness says here is art, contemplate this.  And nothing rewards contemplation as much as does no thing.

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