Saturday, August 25, 2007

Youth 4

"It is not beautiful, yet it speaks like beauty, imperiously."

In Youth, Coetzee writes this of Robert Motherwell's "Elegy for the Spanish Republic 24" (which I was unable to find on the web; this is no. 34 instead).

There's something about this statement that makes it feel different than many other statements about the tastes of the "youth" at the center of JMC's memoir; here, it does seem like something JMC would like to have his work be: not necessarily beautiful, but as imperious as beauty — as many paintings by Abstract Expressionists were and are.

But for me, the most beautiful feature of this statement is not that it points toward a way to understand the effect of art works that are not beautiful but that generate emotions that resemble those we have when do experience beautiful works. No, for me, the most beautiful thing here is the idea that beauty is imperious.

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