The dark side of pop-art: Ed Paschke at the Ashmolean Museum

Oxford museum will host first UK exhibition of work by the Chicago-born artist, whose painting explored the colourful alternative side of Chicago life in the Seventies and Eighties.

Main picture: Boxer with Masque, 2004, © Ed Paschke

Oxford's Ashmolean Museum is to be the somewhat unlikely setting for the first UK exhibition of work by visionary Chicago pop artist Ed Paschke, whose highly colourful paintings of circus freaks, tattooed ladies, transvestites and wrestlers plumbed the vibrant, diverse and often seeds depths of the artist's home city.


Two screaming ladies, 1970, © Ed Paschke

Running from 17 January to 5 July 2015, the show is the third in the Ashmolean's series of exhibitions of post-war and contemporary art presented in collaboration with the Hall Art Foundation (USA).

Known to his friends as 'Mr. Chicago', Paschke (1968-2004) was one of the Chicago Imagists; his provocative paintings were highly influenced by the media of popular culture, taking and subverting tropes from newspapers, magazines, advertisements, film and television.


Bag Boots, 1972, © Ed Paschke

Works such as Hilda (1973) and Mannish Boy (1970) explore the underbelly of urban life and a dark side of Pop Art. While Paschke's later works such as Voulez-Vous Danser? (Would You Like to Dance?) (1989) depict cultural icons like the Mona Lisa, his layered, mask-like abstraction of the face, use of electronic colours and neon-bright static lines, differs drastically from the treatment of similar subjects by his New York contemporaries, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg.


Bombalia, 1978, © Ed Paschke

Four of the works in this exhibition have been lent by the artist Jeff Koons.


Mannish Boy, 1970 © Ed Paschke

Koons, who studied with Paschke and was hired as Paschke's studio assistant in 1974; he has also contributed an interview with exhibition curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, to the exhibition catalogue.


Voulez-Vous Danser? (Would You Like to Dance?), 1989, © Ed Paschke

Sir Norman Rosenthal, Curator of the exhibition, says: 'Chicago and the American Midwest have an extraordinary and very different visual art culture that established itself after the positive reception there of surrealism and the work of artists such as Dalí, Magritte, Delvaux and Matta. Unlike the New York City and Los Angeles art scenes, this world is little known in Great Britain. Ed Paschke is one of Chicago's most significant artists, and this exhibition, the first of Paschke's work in the United Kingdom, should come as a revelation.'

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