The Pursuit of Beauty

Buford Youthward

"The most abstract of arts serves the dumbest emotions" — Santayana

There's a fine line between impression and expression. To engage in the creation of impact one must be concerned with degrees of involvement.

Once again, an analogy with music: The more it demands, the less it appeals to wide audiences. There is a definite relationship between the complexity of music and its popularity. In a world of numbers smart money bets on the ritualistic anthem over the improvised composition when trying to secure stadium-level attendance.

A common source is at work behind the meaning of notes in music, the meaning of words in literature and the meaning of signature in graffiti. The unwritten esperanto of the emotions: tensions versus release, density versus transparency, smooth versus angry, swelling versus subsiding, thunder versus whisper. Yes, there is a faith of graffiti.

Graffiti can do much more if we allow it to. So many writers put a ceiling on graff. I don't understand the relegation when everyone claims to sport an "I-must-create-in-order-to-know-myself" attitude.

When gifted viewers lend themselves to the power of graffiti, they get both the event and idealization of the event. There is something about graffiti that keeps its distance even at the moment it engulfs us. It is at the same time outside and away from us and inside and part of us. In one sense, it minimizes us, and in another we enable it. We are led on and on, and yet in some strange way we never lose control. Perhaps social conditioning eventually has its way.

It is the very nature of graffiti to give us the distillation of sentiments and the essence of experience transfused and heightened and expressed in such fashion that we contemplate it at the same instant that we are swayed by it.

The student of beauty is inside the event even though the graffiti keeps its psychological distance. The graffiti writer should always stand unmoved by reaction or criticism. Complete detachment. The process provides the pleasure, not the end result. It's a game of means. The joy of graffiti comes from the action — not the product or finality of the act.

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