The Gallery Framing Aesthetic

This month we celebrate the gallery framing aesthetic.
By definition, gallery framing is the simplest, most sophisticated answer to the question of  “how to frame a picture.” The very idea of gallery framing is derived from the historic guidelines fine art galleries worldwide have used for entry into their spaces: a simple frame, a single high-quality mat board, plexiglas or acrylic glazing, and usually a structured, quality backing. These standards protect the art and allow the gallery to create a unified, cohesive exhibit from varied work.

Because of its simplicity and economical pricing, gallery framing has traditionally allowed artists to present and sell their work without huge mark-ups on framing. After purchasing, art buyers have the option of changing the treatment to fit the décor of their art’s new home.

Over the years, with the sustained popularity of contemporary design, the clean lines and minimalist appeal of gallery framing has taken on a life of its own. No longer is it simply a carrying case for art to be sold; it is now the “little black dress” of art display; the classic that goes anywhere and fits nearly any occasion. Again, it’s a formula: a high-quality frame with clean lines (either metal or wood) and a single, wide white mat. If you’ve never framed a picture in your life and don’t know how, you can use this method to create a look you will love for years. That, my friends, is the beauty of gallery framing.

Here is a striking illustration of fine art displayed in a classic gallery treatment. I am honored to call attention to the work of longtime American Frame customer Jean-Marie Côté and his wife Donna Varner. Here are some images Jean-Marie shared with me of a recent exhibit “Unspoken Dialog: Two Artists, One Project, A Visual Conversation.” This show ran last March at the Walter Greer Gallery At the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Look at this beautiful work  by this chic and stylish couple!

Unspoken Dialogue exhibit

Jean Marie Cote and Donna Varner

artwork from Unspoken Dialogue exhibit

Their frame of choice for this installation was the SP321, Standard Plus III Matte Black. In Jean-Marie’s words, this frame is, “Classic, simple and elegant. A very professional look.” Personally, I like this profile for its depth and slightly raised lip, which recesses the art and lends unexpected dimension. It’s a very popular choice for framing high-end photography.

As a side note, I’d like to give a very special thanks you to Jean-Marie for all of the constructive feedback he provided us as we prepared to launch our new website. He was a concerned and engaged partner and because of his input, we were able to reimagine and correct some of the features of the new site prior to launch and shortly after.

For interested readers and collectors, I have included the original press release about their shows below. Current works and exhibits are as follows:

Donna Varner exhibits at:
Pluff Mudd Art, 27 Calhoun St., Bluffton, SC
Atelier on Bay, 203 West St., Beaufort, SC
Both will be participating in the Art Market at Historic Honey Horn, Hilton Head Island, SC April 26–27, 2014.
They have both been juried into ArtFields, Lake City, SC April 25–May 4, 2014.

Unspoken Dialogue
two artists, one project: a visual conversation
Black and white photography by Donna Varner and Jean-Marie Côté

The mystery and modernity of black and white photography come to the Lowcountry at the hands of fine art photographers Donna Varner and Jean-Marie Côté.

The exhibition, Unspoken Dialogue, at the Art League of Hilton Head in the month of March, is strong on design and emotional appeal. The show will run the month of March at the Walter Greer Gallery At the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

Artists Donna Varner and Jean-Marie Côté have followed their respective muses into the black and white genre and the results are striking.

Varner’s work is part street photography, part textural exploration. The work is almost always moody and graphic. Her dialogue with the viewer employs an occasional twist of irony and an invitation to invent a story. Though rich with detail, many of the images convey emptiness.

Côté’s work is as mysterious as it is technically excellent. He creates form from light and shape from shadow. His works are high contrast, dark and distinct, simple and sharp, or in his words, “noir.” Literal emptiness surrounds the main subjects; the absence of detail sharpens our view.
The photographers reach common ground in their attention to the details in their subjects. Both are intent on directing the viewer’s eye toward something that s/he might not have seen: edges and shapes, patterns in surface texture, elegance in the ordinary. One wants to touch the surfaces, taste the fruit, and sip from the steaming martini glass.

Varner and Côté are a couple, partners in life and photography. While their passion for their art is equally strong, what they shoot and how they approach their work is quite different. Varner and Cote have long been fascinated by the observation that they can be shooting in the same place at the same time and end up with completely different images.

For this exhibition, the two photographers created a project around a single theme: Unspoken Dialogue. Each pursued the theme with only two constraints: the finished images would be black and white and they would be strong on design elements.

The result of this venture is as mysterious as it is familiar. Unspoken Dialogue is made up of individual photographs that are remarkably different but that communicate with one another by unity and harmony of their design elements. One sees dissimilar images that are connected by shape, value and texture.

For instance, when swirling steam spills down the side of a wine glass much like the cascade of ivy around a warehouse window, or when the light reflecting off a pair of apples echoes the glow emanating from a phone booth on a dark street, one wonders about the tacit connection, the unspoken dialogue between these two artists.

Enigmatic yet approachable, Unspoken Dialogue, presents fine art photography that offers unexpected views of artful nature of the world around us.

To learn tips on hanging a gallery show, see the guest post by Jean Marie Cote and Donne Varner.

AubreyK | 4/1/2014 9:47:41 AM | 4 comments
American Frame
It really is a great look and so versatile!
4/8/2014 7:24:28 AM

Love this look! Economical and it looks great - will look perfect in my home and display my art/photos wonderfully
4/7/2014 4:41:17 PM

American Frame

That is absolutely right! Framing artwork with the gallery framing aesthetic is economical, chic and goes well with existing decor!
4/7/2014 8:33:41 AM

Kaitlyn Payne
This is a vastly important topic for new exhibitioners! You don't need big flashy frames, let your art do the talking and enjoy the simplicity of gallery framing. And as a bonus it looks good on any wall!
4/4/2014 3:00:51 PM

About this blog

Laura Jajko

Join in and let’s bond over our love of art and framing. Here, I’ll be sharing design inspiration and decisions, twitter chat summaries, and happenings with the company, among other things. With more than 40 years of practical experience, I bring a unique perspective in a straight-forward style that I hope will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialog in our online community.

For more tutorials and articles, take a look at our other blogs -  Ask Mike or At Your Service

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