FRAMES & METACOMMUNICATION

This Bill Blass advert is loaded with self-contradictory juxtapositions. Given our understanding of the advertising metastructure, every element of this image seems loaded with multiple connotations. Begin with the frame. It smacks of everything bourgeois, and yet, aristocratic. This is not simply a frame, but indeed, the hegemonic frame of the early-modern aristocracy and their taste successors, the bourgeoisie. To be sure, it connotes art, taste, and good-breeding. This was the frame (see John Berger) that enclosed, contained, bounded, and presented images of women and nature for the privileged absent, male spectator-owner. This was the frame of beauty and currency and privilege.

So why then is the frame not squared up (a fundamental principle of modernist aesthetics - linearity, the rule of the perpendicular, etc)? why is it at an angle. Obviously, we recognize that it is "crooked" because it is out of kilter with the advertising page -- or rather it turns against the tacit frame of the advertising stage. This frame thus disrupts two frames -- the frame of the ad (or, in this case, the meta-frame) and the frame of the art/social class frame. Further, the 'piece of art' that is framed violates the plane of the frame in a dimensional way. Why has it been encoded in this way?

It protrudes beyond its space? It violates its own frame.

One might imagine many signifieds. It could symbolize living art? Wearable art? Or as someone has already suggested, accessible art. The artpiece itself - a painted jacket - suggests themes of infinite regress (the scene within the scene). Its positioning here, again already noted, plays off of surrealist themes - especially with the clouds and sky. We would be safe in assuming that this is most emphatically not the aesthetic of early modernism. In fact, there is a jarring disunity between art and frame - the one semi-traditional and early modern, while the other is some mutant vision of POMO.

So, is the only point of this that you can step into this chair - into this jacket - that this frame is for you, slightly open, ajar? Or, does it unintentionally tell us far more about the contradictions of commodification, social class and the system of frames that once upon a time sought to show a seamless world of bourgeois status - one which was supposedly so dominant that it appeared natural and unframed?

Bob Goldman