Journal VII

By Benjamin Klein
May 19, 2020
Journal VII

Photograph of Frida Kahlo


Because many artists can’t go to their studios right now or have limited access, and also may not be able to restock their materials and supplies, the issue of making art in the time of COVID-19 is a complicated and fraught thing, loaded with the weight of expectation that we find something worthy to say, as well as the frustration of being unable to practice as much or at all. “If you’re going to make something, make it now and make it good”, is the feeling this situation is generating for me personally as an artist, and for a large number of others I’ve spoken to. But because many of us can’t, it’s deeply frustrating to not be able to go to work when we are full of ideas, as well as an even stronger than usual need to express them. This time of self-isolation and social distancing presents a unique inflection point for visual artists - could it generate something genuinely fresh, individually or even collectively? Could there be a Coronavirus style somehow, either formally or conceptually speaking, or both? Is there something that is crying out to be expressed? These are open questions but whatever our personal stance with respect to contemporary art, I believe we can all agree that art is called on to answer to its own time. And no matter how the internet can be said to have changed the art world during this generation, it remains permanently true that to experience the plastic arts in their reality, you have to be in the same space - most often, you have to go somewhere to see it. The upside is, that this time of the quarantine, which in essence is a collective effort to protect as many people as possible, is concentrating the minds of artists, who I trust will respond. And the response will be some version of trying to reach as many people as possible, and to provide a hopeful and forward-looking commentary. It is not going too far to say that we have found a renewed sense that, because there isn’t time and space to make things and create forever, we should and will attack this situation as artists, with as much energy and commitment as possible. What we may need in the time of the virus, as much as quality distractions are important too, is an art that concentrates us within our limitations, and then aesthetically transcends them.


Photograph of Henri Matisse