Review: Ed Paschke exhibition at the Ashmolean

Ed Paschke's art ('Mannish' Boy & part of 'Two Screaming Ladies')

Ed Paschke's art ('Mannish' Boy & part of 'Two Screaming Ladies') - Credit: Archant

Sandra Smith visited the exhibition of Ed Paschke’s bold and confrontational work at the Ashmolean in Oxford

Bold and confrontational with a textural quality that enhances a density of images as challenging as they are vibrant, Ed Paschke’s work has the capacity to inform and shock.

That such a shy, introverted child should have spent his adult life producing such monumental canvasses is due partly to his father’s creativity. Crafting caricatures was a common family pastime and, as Paschke Senior invented clay models and performances, so his son absorbed a magical, fictional world. Comic strips became a preoccupation and a genre the young artist explored during his teenage years.

Although Paschke’s career did not take off until the late Seventies, a strong element of Sixties Pop Art infiltrates his paintings. That he is sometimes compared with Warhol is understandable. Both artists, after all, favoured individuals and cultural icons. Yet those paintings produced by the Chicago artist convey a considerably more corporeal quality. Warm tones exude earthy energy and it is this ability to breathe life into his subjects that makes them more accessible.

Some of his more provocative paintings are included here: Wanda, Hilda and Two Screaming Ladies, each physically stimulating, if not rebellious, and simultaneously projecting an element of voyeurism, confirming Paschke’s appreciation of life and fusion of eccentric fascinations.

Committed to his home city throughout his career, one of Paschke’s proudest moments came in 1989 when the Art Institute of Chicago staged a retrospective. But it is only now, over 10 years since his death, that his work is available for viewing in the UK for the first time. This exhibition may be a small tribute but the two dozen paintings featured represent some of Paschke’s most memorable works and the Ashmolean is to be applauded for showcasing such a complex portfolio.


Ed Paschke: Visionary from Chicago, 1968–2004 runs until July 5 at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Beaumont Street, Oxford: 01865 278002;

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