Anthony Eterovich Retrospective: A Stage is Set at Massillon Museum
It’s easy for an artist to become lost to time, their body of works fading out of the public’s memory. This could have been the case for Anthony Eterovich (1916-2011). Instead, Eterovich has been getting the attention of regional museums and galleries, including that of the Massillon Museum. Their current exhibition, A Thrilling Act, is a retrospective of the artist’s works and includes pieces that date from childhood through late career. The exhibition is on view from June 12th to September 26th, 2021 and is indeed a thrill to see.
Often, retrospectives can be a bit dry and stodgy, but the Massillon Museum has captured the jubilant essence of Anthony Eterovich with its installation. Bright yellow and turquoise gallery walls compliment the vibrant works on display. Eterovich’s own use of color and painting techniques provide the viewer with a sense of optimism, even in the face of adversity. Depictions of ramshackle buildings, like in Effacement (1948) and Regal Decline (1956), still hold onto remnants of their faded glory with figures actively making improvements or standing in repose.
Eterovich explored several styles within his oeuvre, ranging from realism to abstraction and back to a photorealist style. Even at his most abstract — with textured paint and expressionist brushwork — he imbued his paintings and drawings with a sense of precision and fine detail that ties the work together. His skill with abstract brushwork in the paintings mentioned above morphed into finer lines in works like Bride and Formal (1975) and even more precise photorealistic techniques in works like The Monument (c.1988) depicting the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument in Cleveland’s Public Square. Even in his portraiture, one can see the growth from academic self-portraits, to abstracted caricatures that capture the sitter’s personalities, back to a refined realism.
His work consistently contains a sense of theatre, many settings are reminiscent of stage designs with figures in the spaces acting out a kind of choreography. Their gestures and stances appear to be frozen dance movements. Much of this interpretation could be the frontal views he presents the viewer. However, he likely also took inspiration from his wife, Alice Eterovich, who had a successful career as a choreographer and was a muse and subject for several paintings in the exhibition.
Anthony Eterovich’s retrospective at the Massillon Museum highlights the importance of celebrating the rich history of an artist’s career and has been the result of Eterovich’s daughter, Karen Eterovich, “My experience with my father’s work has so many stages and has enriched my life in ways I could never have foreseen. I have experienced the rejection of his work; I think that hurts more than having my own acting work rejected! But as in acting, I have also been encouraged to keep putting his work out there.” With careful consideration and planning, she has taken steps to secure her father’s artistic legacy.
Works on view are not only represented from the collection of the estate, but also several museum collections including ARTneo and the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. Both organizations have shown Eterovich’s work in their exhibitions, and now, Massillon keeps the audience’s attention on the artist’s talent and place in Northeast Ohio’s history of art. “Until 2016, our family had not seen all the work up in one place, under lights; I feel now, more than ever, he holds the stage and makes the viewer want to return again and again to find something new and perhaps go back and create a work of art themselves,” Karen Eterovich says. “He makes you excited about art, excited about looking at art and inspired to make your own art. He was the child of two Croatian immigrants. His father worked in the steel mills. He was a humble person and admired other artists. He admired his own students. Not everyone is a person of means; his story empowers others to start or continue their own work no matter how difficult their circumstances might seem.”