Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Ed Paschke (American, 1939–2004)

Adria, 1976

Oil on canvas

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

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 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 1990s, Adria possesses the wild, surrealist tendencies of the former period and foretells the elegant, day-glo color schemes and the restrained formality of the latter period.

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.

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 28 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 painting, and he enrolled at the School of the Art Institute on the GI Bill, receiving his MFA degree in 1970.