An Obituary (2016)
Eberhart Van Dyke, who passed away today, is considered by many as the most important artist who ever lived- despite never having made a single art work. His importance is acknowledged out of the incredible urge that inspired him- an urge that could have easily produced the most impactful works in art history but that he kept to himself as a radical act.
From early age, Mr. Van Dyke confessed to having artistic urges- so intense sometimes that he would stay in bed all day, overwhelmed by his powerful visions. His parents placed art materials in front of him, but not even once did he use them, certain from early on that whatever he could make would never nearly match the perfection, intellectual depth and artistic beauty of what he was feeling.
He was one of the most prominent and influential artists during the rise of Conceptual Art. In contrast to many artists of his generation who argued that the work needed to be thought to exist, he ridiculed that position as conservative, arguing that thinking about the work was already a violation of the creative process.
He argued for exclusively having vague feelings about art as the next, ultimate, and most radical step any artist could take. He further proposed the medium of “artistic sensing”, that is, a lived practice that consisted in having semi-conscious artistic feelings and sensations, but without ever allowing any of them becoming an actual art idea. He gained many followers in the 60s and 70s, but rejected many of them, accusing them of misunderstanding his theory of artistic sensing as meditation.
Offered many exhibitions throughout his lifetime, he always rejected these opportunities, arguing that sharing his sensations was impossible and ultimately a betrayal of the private experience of art.
He took a job as a drug store attendant which he kept his whole life. The job allowed him, he claimed, enough mental space to do his artistic practice.
His impact in art history is clear and definitive. Yet he left strict instructions in his will, asking anyone in academic circles to never write about his work because, in his view, even a speculative study on what he might have thought or felt would go against the purity of his contribution to art.