The Varietal Characteristic of “Reality” In Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Transcendental Realism

In this summary essay, Adi Da Samraj frames the cultural ”projects” of certain key movements of twentieth- and twenty-first-century art, and contrasts these movements with his own art. He identifies the crux of each movement in terms of (1) the mode of reality that is taken to be the necessary subject of that movement’s art and (2) the method used to convey the artist’s “message” about reality. In the essay, Adi Da places “reality” in quotation marks to indicate his contention, developed in great detail elsewhere, that all such conceptualizations of reality are ego-based, and thus inevitably partial and limited.

Adi Da identifies two fundamental modes of “reality” that are variously presumed to be the necessary subject of art: non-material reality and material reality. He defines non-material reality as “spiritual”, or “Platonic”, and material reality as “gross” (meaning “bodily”, or “physical”).

Adi Da then identifies what he views as the three fundamental artistic approaches to depicting reality that characterize various modern and post-modern artistic movements: (1) pictographically symbolizing non-material reality; (2) de-constructing and re-constructing (perceptual) material reality; and (3) reducing everything to nothing but pictorially rendered material (or gross) reality. In delineating these three approaches, Adi Da is also indicating what he identifies as the implicit philosophical orientation underlying each movement.

Adi Da defines his art as a “realism” depicting “Reality Itself,” in contrast to the partial depictions of reality he identifies as characteristic of the modernists and post-modernists. As he concisely defines it, Reality Itself is “that which is always already the case”, [1] as opposed to anything (whether material or non-material) that is the case only under certain (space-time) conditions. And Adi Da defines his artistic method neither as a Platonic effort to symbolize reality nor as a realist effort to de-construct reality or reduce it to gross materiality. Rather, he describes his artistic method as one of “coinciding” with “Reality Itself.”

Adi Da characterizes the artistic process of “coinciding with Reality Itself” in terms of three fundamental characteristics: aperspectival, aniconic, and anegoic. By “aperspectival” (or “non-perspectival”) he means that the images are not created from a point of view in space-time, by means of the methods of linear geometric perspective. By “aniconic” (or “non-iconic”) he means that the images contain no visual references to any apparently separate “icon”, or “objectified subject matter,” as it might be seen from a separate point of view. By the term “anegoic” (or “non-egoic”) he proposes that his images are not ego-based or “ego-useful”, because they are created by means of a systematic process of abstraction that “intrinsically transcends the ‘point-of-view’-orientation of the perceiving body.” [2]

Because Adi Da’s art is purposed to “coincide” with “Reality Itself”—in a manner that would transcend the limitations and misconceptions of the perceiving ego—he describes his art as being in the transcendental mode of realism, or Transcendental Realism.

  1. This definition appears many times in Adi Da’s writings: for example, The Aletheon, by Adi Da Samraj (Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 2009), p. 220
  2. Transcendental Realism, p. 59.

The Varietal Characteristic of “Reality” In Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Transcendental Realism

“Modernists”—such as Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Rothko—proposed a kind of pictographically symbolized “Platonic” (or “spiritual”, meaning essentially non-material) “reality” as an alternative to the otherwise perceived gross “reality” of bodily and material awareness.

Other “modernists”—beginning with the “cubists” (including Braque, Picasso, Gris, and others), and, then, on to the “surrealists” (such as Dalì, Mirò, de Chirico, Magritte, and even Bacon) and the “abstract expressionists” (such as Pollock and de Kooning)—engaged in pictorial efforts to analyze, de-construct, and re-construct gross (and grossly psychologized) perceptual “reality”, and (thus and thereby) demonstrated a fundamental “spiritual” (or “subjectively” conflicted) anxiety about the human condition.

In contrast to the “modernists”, the post-“modernists”—even beginning with Duchamp, and on to the “pop” artists (such as Warhol and Lichtenstein) and such anti-“modernist” artists as Stella, Newman, Rauschenberg, and Johns—engaged in gross pictorial “realism” (or “gross reductionism” and “gross objectivism”) to the point of exhausting its “charm” absolutely.

The Transcendental Realist image-art I make and do is neither a “Platonic” (or “alternative-reality”) exercise nor an exercise in “gross realism” (whether in the manner of “analytical deconstruction” or in the manner of “gross reductionism”).

Rather, the Transcendental Realist image-art I make and do is a process based on direct apprehension (or root-apperception) of the Intrinsically egoless and Irreducibly Indivisible Self-Nature, Self-Condition, and Self-State of Reality Itself—and, thus, the image-art I make and do is a process, in aesthetic and perceptible artistic terms, of intrinsically egoless (or “point-of-view”-less, or anegoic, and aperspectival, and aniconic) coincidence with the intrinsic Reality-characteristic of all perceptual experience and, indeed, of all possible human experience.

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