Ed Paschke (American, 1939-2004)
Panel: 96 1/8 x 74 in. (244.2 x 188 cm)
Susan and Lewis Manilow Collection of Chicago Artists, gift in honor of Dennis Adrian
Ed Paschke has captured the feel of the garish, urban social landscape at the century’s end. Displaying an early fascination with bizarre human subjects—tattooed ladies, beefy wrestlers, and circus freaks—Paschke has developed his own style of manipulation, fragmentation, and mutilation of the human body in his canvases. Adria (1976) is an excellent example, taking a distinguished member of the local art community, art critic and historian Dennis Adrian, and transforming him into a figure of fantasy. Situated between Paschke’s more lurid pictures of the 1960s and the cool, neon-like abstractions of the 1980s and 19902, Adria possesses the wild, Surrealist tendencies of the former and foretells the elegant, day-glo color schemes and the restrained formality of the latter period.
Paschke was born in 1939 on the Northwest side of Chicago. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving his BFA degree in 1961. After graduation he held a string of unusual jobs, including working as a psychiatric aide and selling spot illustrations to Playboy magazine (where twenty-eight of his illustrations have been published from 1962 through 1989). Drafted into the Army in 1962, Paschke spent two years illustrating weapons-training aids and pursuing AWOL soldiers in Louisiana. Following a brief trip to Europe, Paschke returned to Chicago and in 1965 took a job at the Wilding Studio with a team of draftsmen rendering a map to be used in training astronauts for the Apollo moon mission. Paschke then began work for Silvestri, a display company, painting a Piranesi-style scene on the temporary façade around the first-floor window of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Department Store. By 1967 Paschke quit working to devote his time to paint, and on the GI Bill, he enrolled at the School of the Art Institute, receiving his MFA degree in 1970.
Paschke is regarded as one of the foremost “Imagists”—a name created by critic and historian Franz Schulze to define the punchy, Surrealistic, pop culture—informed, figurative art that emerged in Chicago from the middle of the 1960s to the early 1970s. Dennis Adrian, like Schulze, was an ardent supporter of Chicago painters, and Paschke’s homage brings his likeness to the viewer on a heroic scale. The flamboyance of the oversized hat, the swinging padded appendages replacing his arms and hands, and the lush, oval-patterned backdrop offsets the rigid classical frontality of Adrian’s pose. Adrian did not actually sit for the painting; Paschke painted the piece from a photographic model, and so the uncommissioned piece was quite a surprise for its subject.