Usually when an artist receives a large-scale, posthumous retrospective across four prestigious local venues, it's not considered an introduction. However, Tregoning & Company's A Thrilling Act hopes to serve as a re-introduction of Anthony Eterovich (1916-2011) and his work, an oeuvre of drawings and paintings which spans nearly 80 years.
This special tribute to Eterovich began this spring with a collaboration between Tregoning, the Cleveland Institute of Art, ARTneo and the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. Tregoning's exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive of the group, and due to popular demand it has been extended through July.
Eterovich taught life drawing classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art for more than 50 years, and for more than 40 years in the Cleveland public schools. His body of work includes portraiture, life drawing, landscape and still life. He mastered both drawing and painting, exploring the similarities and differences and utilizing each media's unique qualities.
The exhibition begins with a collection of Eterovich's drawings. Through these charcoal, conte crayon and watercolor works, a glimpse into both the artist and his process begins to emerge. It is obvious that Eterovich was an observer of his surroundings. — the people, places and things that comprised his environment.
Part of the collection is a number of larger-scale oil paintings that feature local landmarks, including Public Square's Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is depicted twice, in "The Monument" and "Cleveland Renaissance Visitors." However, Eterovich's oil paintings go a step beyond realistic depiction with a bit of "Magic Realism."
As an artistic movement, the term Magic Realism refers to the inclusion of fantastical, mythical or surreal elements in otherwise realistic works. This is perhaps most notable with his inclusion of Michelangelo in "The Renaissance Visitors." These paintings are the highlight of the exhibition and provide a very active viewing experience for visitors.
Perhaps the most engaging of the exhibition's paintings is "The Always Running Art Critic." Eterovich tinkered with this work for four decades. He combines masterful oil painting with carefully selected collage elements, including miniature masterpieces from art history. The central figure bears a golden crown and an ominous scowl across his red face. His glasses sit low on the bridge of his nose, while a hand rubs his chin in contemplation. This central head is engulfed by other historical art images, begging the viewer to create their own meaning and narrative. Less realistic than the other paintings, "The Always Running Art Critic" incorporates more spontaneous and expressive brushwork, indicative of Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s.
The brushwork in Eterovich's paintings ranges from gestural and spontaneous to mechanical and precise as the artist sought to capture not just the visual qualities, but the emotional essence of his subject.
In the second section of the exhibition, the focus turns to Eterovich's "Song and Dance" work. This room showcases Eterovich's interest in movement and his depictions of it through painting. It seems a logical connection to his wife Alice, a choreographer and dancer. In fact, she is portrayed in the painting "Alice, Choreographer" from 1956. Additionally, two paintings feature legendary dancer Fred Astaire ("Astaire Tribute" and "Astaire on the Ceiling").
In "Astaire Tribute," Eterovich creates a composition that perfectly captures the sense of energy and movement, with miniature vignettes surrounding a larger central Astaire. Your eyes will dance across the canvas as you follow Eterovich's lines around the painting. With the blue and white background, it appears as if Astaire is dancing through the clouds. Despite a clear sense of intense observation, Eterovich's brushwork is full of spontaneous energy, further evoking the essence of the depicted dance performance.
Throughout the exhibition, there's a feeling of familiarity, not only because of the local monuments, but because Eterovich wasn't just observing life, he was observing other artists. During his studies at the Art Students League in New York City in the early 1950s, Eterovich routinely visited commercial galleries to view work by some of the greatest artists of the time.
A Thrilling Act: The Art of Anthony Eterovich remains on view at Tregoning & Company through July. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursday), Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.
A Thrilling ActTregoning & Company, 1300 West 78th St., 216-281-8626