Ed Paschke was born in 1939 in Chicago. His childhood interest in animation and cartoons led him toward a career in art. As a student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago he was influenced by many artists featured in the Museum's special exhibitions, in particular the work of Gauguin, Picasso and Seurat. Although Paschke's interests leaned towards representational imagery, he learned to paint based on the principles of abstraction and expressionism. Paschke received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and his Master of Fine Arts degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1970.
Between his graduate and undergraduate work Paschke traveled and worked a variety of jobs amassing the experiences that would shape his artistic style. During a brief period in New York, he was exposed to Pop Art philosophy and began to incorporate elements of this style borrowing images directly from the print media and other elements of popular culture. Themes of violence, aggression, and physical incongruity prevail in his work of this period. Returning to Chicago in 1968 he exhibited with other artists whose work, like Paschke's, shared references to non-Western and surrealist art, appropriated images from popular culture and employed brilliant color throughout a busy and carefully worked surface. Known collectively as the Imagists, their work attracted attention both regionally and nationally.
Paschke's work of the 1970's reflects society's subculture as the artist replaced images from the print media with images derived from the electronic media. In Paschke's most recent work, he enlarges scale to a grand proportion and includes images of such well-known figures as George Washington, Elvis Presley, and Mona Lisa. His work reveals a powerful interaction between humanity and technology capable of shaping perception at the most fundamental level.
In addition to his individual pursuits as a fine artist, Paschke was an active member of the academic community for most of his adult life. Following brief stops at a Barat College in Lake Forest Illinois, Meramec Community College in Kirkwood, MO. and the School of the Art Institute, Paschke became a full-time professor of art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1978. He remained there, where he often served as Chairman of the Art Department, for over twenty six years until his death in 2004.
Paschke enrolls in The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Drawing, Painting, and Illustration. He excels in figure drawing (which he practices on the commuter train) but is unprepared to deal with formal concepts of composition; he is particularly mystified by theories of abstraction. At school Paschke points expressionistically, but in private he draws realistically. Frequently he visits the Art Institute galleries where he admires paintings by Edouard Monet that depict figures in a "posterlike" manner against a black background-thereby violating the rules taught in class. Paschke also responds to compositions by Edgar Degas, particularly The Millinery Shop (1879/84) with its "repetition of shapes." Other favorite works include Peter Blume's The Rock (1948) and Jack Levine's The Trial (1953-54), which he finds "amazingly well painted with an economy of means." He is appreciative of J.-A.-D. Ingres's depictions of flesh and fabrics but is emotionally drawn to Rembrandt's self-portrait. The "Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition" is an important experience for Paschke, as is the work of Richard Lindner included in the "62nd American Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture." In conjunction with academic classes, Paschke reads Charles Dickens, Aldous Huxley, H. L. Mencken, Franz Kafka, and Jack Kerouac.
Favorite classes are two in life drawing: lineal with instructor John Fabian, and volumetric with Isabel Steele MacKinnon, a former student of Hans Hofmann. He also takes a class in lettering and magazine illustration. "Seurat Paintings and Drawings" introduces Paschke to the master's Conte-crayon works, which later serve as stylistic models for his own black-and-white drawings, such as the Queen Dido illustration for Playboy (see figs. 8, 9). Paschke exhibits Commutism (1958), a work based on his daily train rides, in the "1958 Chicago Artists Exhibition." He receives commendation for figure drawing from the School of the Art Institute.
Paschke is exposed to the work of Ivan Albright, Leon Golub, Hans Hofmann, Jack Levine, and H. C. Westermann in the "63rd American Exhibition" at The Art Institute of Chicago. He also sees work by Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg, and Larry Rivers in the "64th American Exhibition." He receives Faculty Honorable Mention for Advanced Painting and Figure Drawing (1960-61) and Class Honorable Mention for Figure Painting. He graduates from the Art Institute and wins the Anna Louise Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship ($1,500), which he uses for a three-month trip to Mexico with SAIC colleagues Karl Wirsum and Bert Phillips. In August 1961 he returns to Chicago with slides, a pet parrot named Flaco, and a "visual written journal which locked the experience into my conscious or subconscious."
In September Paschke takes an apprentice position at the Pace Studios, Chicago, where he cleans brushes and fetches coffee for the established commercial artists but receives no assignments of his own; he leaves after six months. He receives three commissions from Playboy (which include Queen Dido, fig. 8) and establishes a continuing relationship with the magazine (twenty-eight of his illustrations are published from 1962 to 1989). In May Paschke seeks employment in New York as a magazine illustrator. During his week there (staying near the Greyhound Station in Times Square), he visits Birdland and museums but is unsuccessful in obtaining a job. Back in Chicago and sensing an impending draft notice, he takes a civil-service examination and works (June-August) as a psychiatric aide at the Dunning Psychiatric Center (Chicago-Read Mental Health Center) to satisfy a long-standing curiosity concerning mental abnormality.
Returning to New York, Paschke rents a room on the Upper West Side and experiments with filmmaking, surreptitiously shooting the neighborhood derelicts. He rewards them with drinks for "mugging" and "acting" in his films. Later he splices this footage with professional move clips; the interspersed visuals, which the artist had seen repeatedly as a child, are for him "a collage of early life."
Paschke is drafted into the Army, November 4, 1962, and sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana. As a Specialist Fourth Class, he illustrates training aids to explain weapons and procedures to incoming troops. The images include diagrams on how to load a gun as well as full-scale renderings of guns; in retrospect, they remind him of Pop Art. Paschke's own proficiency with a .45-caliber revolver qualifies him for the job of pursuing AWOL soldiers across the South into Georgia and Texas. Personally, he is surprised by the tough brutality of several fellow draftees whose aggressive demeanor and life experiences significantly contrast with his own. Released from the Army on November 4, 1964, he returns to Chicago.
In January he spends the remainder of his fellowship funds on a trip to Europe, visiting Rome, Florence, London, and Paris. Glad to be back in the United States, "where things were happening," he spends March and April in New York, where he sublets a room on the Lower East Side in an abandoned synagogue. To keep warm, he stuffs old New York Times in the cracked window frames; the most appealing images he cuts out and pasts on cardboard, inking over some parts and painting out others (see fig. 11). The resulting collages-many with duplicate figures-serve as prototypes for paintings. At the Museum of Modern Art's "Recent Painting and Sculpture Acquisitions" exhibition, he is impressed by Andy Warhol's Gold Marilyn (1962). Paschke returns to Chicago in April. He rents space in a condemned building (near North Avenue and Halsted Street) and paints-living on three dollars a day-until the money runs out. He sees exhibitions of works by Max Beckmann and Stuart Davis at The Art Institute of Chicago. He exhibits in "Phalanx 3" at the Illinois Institute of Technology with, among others, Tom Palazzolo, a colleague from the School of the Art Institute, whose work has interested him for its theatrical subject matter and depictions of amusement-park freaks. In October he takes a job at the Wilding Studio working with a team of draftsmen rendering a map to be used in training astronauts for the Apollo moon mission.
Paschke leaves Wilding Studio in June to work for Silvestri, a display company, painting a Piranesi-style scene on the temporary faŃade around the first-floor windows of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company department store (fig. 10); he notes how ironic it is to be covering Louis Sullivan's architectural landmark with an imitation of art. Paschke explores the inner city's ethnic neighborhoods and historic shrines, including sites of infamous crimes and favored underworld hangouts. Occasionally he deposits an assortment of jackets on the back seat of his parents' car and, cruising from bar to bar, changes clothes to harmonize with the local clientele. He sees various exhibitions of work by Jack Levine, Rene' Magritte, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist and feels "an affinity for their Surrealistic juxtapositional strategy." Paschke attends the first of the "Hairy Who" exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center. Seeing his former Art Institute colleagues James Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum professionally engaged and organized causes him to question his own potential.
Paschke stops work in June to give himself time to paint. Large Round Open (1965) (fig. 12) is exhibited in the "Seventieth Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity." Paschke sees works by Claes Oldenburg and Dan Flavin at the newly opened Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Paschke takes the role of "leading man" in Red Grooms's film Tappy Toes, which is staged in Grooms's room-sized construction, Chicago (1967-68). He joins with Sarah Canright, Edward C. Flood, Robert Guinan, and Richard Wetzel in the "Nonplussed Some" exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center; Paschke shows nine works, including Amor (1968) and Dos Criados (1968) (cat. nos. 2, 3). Purple Ritual (1967) (cat. no. 1) and Tet Inoffensive (1968) are included in the Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition "Violence in Recent American Art."
In the spring Paschke meets Nancy Cohn, a former Art Institute student he had dated during his undergraduate years. They are married November 22. The couple takes an apartment at Clark Street and Oakdale Avenue; Paschke attends graduate school at the Art Institute on the GI Bill; a master's degree will enable him to obtain a teaching position that will support his family and still leave him time to paint.
Paschke studies silkscreening with Sonia Sheridan at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, where he prints Budget Floors (1968-69) (fig. 19). He enters a variety of national juried print and drawing shows as a means of obtaining exposure for his images; practically, he finds that works on paper can be most easily and inexpensively transported. He exhibits in "Nonplussed Some Some More" at the Hyde Park Art Center and in "Don Baum Sez 'Chicago Needs Famous Artists'" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Paschke is taken on by Deson-Zaks Gallery in Chicago. For "Art by Telephone," an exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, he follows phoned instructions from British artist Richard Hamilton. Dos Criados (1968) is among three works included in "Human Concern/Personal Torment: The Grotesque in American Art," organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Paschke sees a retrospective exhibition of works by Andy Warhol-the artist whom he deems to be the most significant postwar American painter-at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He exhibits Accordion Man (1969) (cat. no. 4) and other works of the Hyde Park Art Center in "Marriage Chicago Style" (see fig. 21). Paschke continues graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute where he is a Ponte del Arte Fellow. He receives his Master of Fine Arts on June 22, 1970 (his thirty-first birthday). In May he has his first one-person show, at the Deson-Zaks Gallery, Chicago, Mid American (1969) (cat. no. 5) is exhibited in the "30th Society for Contemporary Art Exhibition" at The Art Institute of Chicago and is acquired by the museum. The canvas is one Paschke has struggled with over an extended period of time, and which he had considered a failure prior to repainting its left side. One of Paschke's few repainted works, the painting conceals an image of a young boy beneath the now-visible baseball mitts.
Moving to St. Louis in the late summer, Paschke begins in September teaching at Meramec Community College, Kirkwood, Missouri. He shows Marshall McLuhan's documentary film The Medium Is the Message to his painting classes and is as impressed by the film's visual effects-which feature the superimposition of colored gels on live action-as he is by the content.