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GENERATIONS: Eric Angeloch

It is not patience, one might sometimes have to remind oneself, stilling the eye and the heart to fully take in a scene at once moving and complex yet unified and calming. It is entirely apart from patience, releasing the compulsions and distractions of today’s rapidly paced world like a handkerchief surrendered to a wind by relaxing fingers, to take in an environment like a breath drawn not merely to bring the fuel of oxygen to a living system but to savor, analyze... experience.

It is above mere patience to awaken to details beyond what is seen as a matter of course to what is visible, and more– what is implied. It takes more than patience to absorb the most common or most grandiose of sights. It takes self-possession.

As an artist, Eric Angeloch found himself in a position wherein he was technically informed and proficient; wherein he was able to produce art which was visually engaging and aesthetically pleasing but, to his own mind’s eye, somewhere short of satisfying. Having completed a canvas, accomplishing everything he had set out to do, Angeloch could gaze at his creation and sense something that wasn’t there. Overall, the scene and its elements were in place, the last finite adjustments of tone and placement had been labored into position and yet he felt there was something more he hadn’t included in the finished work... It may have looked splendid; it might represent precisely what his design intended but... it didn’t sing.

This realization led Angeloch on a quest for that missing lyrical ingredient; a search which exhausted itself in close examination of light, substance, materials and technique to finally culminate within the artist, himself. It was not the anatomy of a scene he was seeking. He had been well-schooled and finely practiced in capturing the messages of physical form. It was instead, upon due reflection, its soul.

With that secret tucked safe, Angeloch began to alter the routines of his painting. Instead of working entirely from immediate reference, he learned to register the desired scene and the effect it instilled. He restudied how to view what he was looking at with a slightly different perspective; seeing not only those codes of vision of particular interest to the artistic eye but the more subjective influences of what was being seen. He had studied how to see a scene as an artist sees it and, now, he studied how to see into a scene, gather its essentials and take it away with him when he left. He had found the missing ingredient.

“It was something I could never really figure out when I was growing up,” Angeloch remembers. “It was something I didn’t see in most representational art; something you could trace in other approaches that contain more personal expression– where someone would put something inside of themselves on canvas. It finally clicked for me a few years ago.”

Growing up for Eric Angeloch involved him immediately in an environment seeped in artistic sensibilities. His father, Robert Angeloch, is a renowned landscapist who had been a founder of the famed Woodstock School of Art in 1968. Today, at 83, Robert Angeloch still has an active canvas on his easel, a large, purchased and departed painting long favored by his current wife Mara that he is recreating as he also catalogs the extensive work of his career. This latter project is one which has afforded him a recent opportunity to review work from almost forgotten shades of the past.

“My own parents were not artistically inclined,” Robert Angeloch recalls. “Except, perhaps, that my father played different musical instruments and had an orchestra. He met my mother in a church group he belonged to in Manhattan around 1908. But I was always interested in art. I don’t know why. I still have a medal I won when I was a kid in grade school, around 11 years old.”

Robert choose to pursue his childhood interest through the G.I. Bill, when he was discharged from the army following World War II, by studying at the venerable Art Students League of New York. (Founded in 1875, Raymond J. Steiner puts the institution in historical perspective in his marvelous history of it by noting that in the year following its foundation, General George Armstrong Custer rode into Little Big Horn.) In 1948, the school’s summer program, in only its second season, brought Robert Angeloch to Woodstock, where he would settle and establish his reputation as an extraordinary painter of landscapes. After co-founding the Woodstock School of Art, where he established himself as a instructor of note (and where Eric, in more recent years, has taught and continues to teach), Robert’s own Paradox Gallery, founded in 1974, became a landmark in the regional art scene for a quarter of a century.

“Eric was always interested in drawing; he was always able to express himself that way,” Robert says of his son as he reflects on the question of a home environment’s role in the development of artistic achievement. His daughter, Alexandra, choose a palette of words instead and became a playwright and performer but also the producer of a granddaughter who plans to begin a study of art at Pratt Institute at about the time this is written. Eric’s own son, Ian, is also interested in composition but of the musical variety and plays classical violin.
“I have things Eric did when he was two or three years old,” Robert observes, adding that his son’s proclivity to art was always encouraged not only by himself but by Eric’s mother Nancy, a professionally trained artist who also taught the subject in public school. In fact, Nancy is herself the daughter of noted artist-illustrator and Salmagundi Club member, Dudley Gloyne Summers [1892-1975], who lived “just down the road” when Eric was growing up. (Coincidently, a book by Gene Stratton Porter titled Her Father’s Daughter [1921] and illustrated by Summers is downloadable from the University of Virginia’s Library Electronic Text Center.

“I even have a book of color ink drawings Eric did of football players that he used to sell to other students before he went to high school,” Robert laughs. “I’m very fond of his work. He’s quite focused. He’s like me, only more so, and he does beautiful pen and ink drawings, pencil sketches and so on; not just landscapes; fine realistic things.”
Eric Angeloch, unlike his father, had a musical period in his teens which, as he played in a band, almost drew him away from his youthful aspirations to paint.
“The more I’d (play in a band), the more fun I’d have and the less time I’d spend painting,” Eric says of his near decade-long involvement with music. “There came a time to choose one or the other because I didn’t think I’d be able to do both and have either one of them be really successful. So, I had to let the music go.”
With roots in both creative forms, it was almost a heads or tails choice but visual art exerted a stronger field of influence at home.

“It was always around,” Eric noted when called during a recuperation period from an appendix operation earlier this year. When he answered the phone, he turned down the tape of an old Cowboys-49ers game he had been watching from the couch. “There were two things that were big in my life as a kid. Everyone painted and drew and we watched football. Art was just something that everyone did and, of course, all my parents' friends were involved in the visual arts as well. So, as a young kid, I pretty much thought that’s what human beings did.”

That’s a cue not to ask Eric if his style was influenced by his father’s work. When I missed it, he sensibly replied “Sure, how could you avoid it?” and recounted the helpful instruction from both parents which benefited him. It was a hands-on education when he started painting with his father during high school years as well as helping with particular processes of art in the studio.

“I think I got more from printing his silkscreens than anything else– that simplification of form– breaking things down to five or six colors,” he reflected. “My guess would be that I started doing that around 1976 and continued well into the early 1980’s. I must have printed a hundred editions of his work. It (silk-screening) was just a different way of looking at things and, down the road, I notice it more and more playing a role in the way I’ve developed my own technique. Everything is very flat initially, simplified, with a gradual building up of layers (in Eric’s technique)– which is very similar to that whole process (of silk-screening images.)”

As an adult artist, already seasoned and accomplished, with a list of galleries proud to represent his work, Eric can look back to those stages of self-instruction which personalize his “imaginary landscapes” drawn from a developed ability to take in dimensions of a scene and carry it off in the charms of memory for tangible revival in the studio. Softening a spot here in a scene or emphasizing another there, you can see those charms of recollection as a compelling element in his paintings today; be they landscape, still life or any other classification of work he takes on; they sing to you.

–Isley Reilly

2007 Book Art Press