I was inspired by his studio location. It was away from everything in an unassuming well-worn office building in an area that continues to defy gentrification. No matter how hard people have tried to fix up the commercial area by the Howard L stop, it still remains a littered, run-down collection of ugly store fronts that looks like it’s seen better days. By doing this, he really stayed connected with the grit that inspired him. Also it was far away from any scene. He kept it real.
These have just never really worked for me. Somehow my eye moves across them, but not INTO them. For all the obvious technique and emphatic color, they just don’t engage me formally or conceptually. I have a sense that these pictures illustrate ideas, instead of the ideas being woven into the fabric of the paintings themselves…
i think that’s exactly the point of the work in a way. in this i think paschke was the quintessential chicago imagist and really synonymous with a uniquely “work the work to a known completeness” attitude.
in my opinion, jim nutt, karl wirsum, and ed paschke are a (if not THE) great chicago imagist triumvirate. and they made works that resisted the eye in a lot of ways, from the lack of perspectival space to the chromatic frontality and directness of their images. and that’s what it was – pictures of images. i think that “pictures that illustrate ideas, instead of ideas being woven into pictures” is part and parcel of a lot of the imagist work, from the monster roster to the hairy who and the “official chicago imagists. looking at roger brown or barbara rossi gives me the same resistance that you’re sensing. the only one in that general circle who made images that really draw me into a kind of nuanced reading is miyoko ito – one of the great unknown chicago artists (and one of my all time favorites). http://www.adambaumgoldgallery.com/Ito_Miyoko/Ito.htm
I’d really like to some Miyako Ito paintings. Seems like the type of work I could just sit down in front for the afternoon and be good. I got a Philip Pearlstein vibe from the thumbnails. Weird.
The Ed Paschke stuff is great! But, I get the feeling that his later work should be spray painted on the wall of some side alley. His earlier should be screen printed and wheat pasted on some busy street corner to offend as many people as possible.
what i mean by “chromatic frontality” is that the colors sit on the surface in such a way that they defy any spatial read and act much more like a dimensionally shallow visual phenomenon rather than serving any illusion or depiction. more effect than projection. it’s just as you say – something that one could imagine spray-painted on an alley wall (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
with most of the chicago imagist works that i’ve seen up close, there is almost zero surface development in terms of texture or negotiation. that is, the image is known and it is transfered onto the canvas, etc. there is not really any accumulation or development, instead the painting is simply implemented as opposed to being discovered. this is not a negative statement or a value judgment to me, just an observation of how i read them.
Matt Ballou, ‘resistance’ is a good term for the work. There’s definitely something unsettled about Paschke’s work. Matt Choberka is right, they are problematic, but somehow it becomes one of the endearing qualities. I’ve never understood it.
David, you’ll think it’s funny to learn that Paschke did one of the Chicago Cows. Remember when? Anybody know exactly where that was? He incorporated gang symbols into his design. I remember an earlier version of his website had a message board; it was mostly full of threats from members of the gang the symbols belonged to.
Norbert, I agree that major retrospective would be great. David Russick’s Nonplussed at Herron in Indianapolis was nothing to sneeze at, though. 26 major works covering 40 years.
The punk-y work from the late 70’s/early 80’s is a little more spatially inventive than these frontal heads. (Not discounting the ‘chromatic frontality’, of those heads. I agree it’s their strength). But those 70’s/80’s things are easier for me to get worked up about, and have more image/idea/material collusion that I want and that Matt C. was talking about.
though Wirsum and Nutt create more of a lively active space that I do feel invited to enter, at least more than with Paschke.
Paschke seems singular in the cold, sort of post-human feeling he generates.
I read somewhere that E.P. liked watching TV and saw that in relation to his work. In his work it’s like the world is taken over by creepy TV imagery and cheap video effects. In that way his work does have a kind of illusionism. He can make an oil painting look like a video monitor. I believe he got that glow-from-within through a traditional grisaille and glazing method.
Anyone who wants to see imagism with more of that formal/conceptual interest that’s been referred to should look at Jim Nutt’s recent portraits, which’re great.
So far away from what you’re talking about right now, but I have a question and can’t think of someone off hand better to ask as this group is a quietly buzzing storehouse of information. Is there any way of getting a list, no matter how comprehensive it may or may not be, of works by a given artist in private collections and the names of the collectors and additionally, how open are collectors to allowing visitors to see their collection? I would have imagined that a lot of collectors would be chuffed to have this kind of request but I could equally imagine the exact opposite reaction. If anyone knows anything about this I’d love it if you could get in touch with me. Sorry to interrupt here, I love the blog and lurk a ridiculous amount here.
In the Ghost World movie, there’s a scene where Steve Buscemi’s character goes on a tirade about radio DJs with hateful voices. And it’s true. A lot of mass media communication is really beyond strident, beyond garish, just really mean-sounding. I’ve always thought those mid-period Paschke paintings tapped into that ugliness. Related to the way Guston tapped into another sort of American Ugly.
Tiarnan, I don’t know of any lists, but you could start with the artist’s gallery. They would certainly know where the works are and which collectors might be open to a visitor.
Chris, do you think that Pashke was consciously embracing the ugliness of the media? It takes a lot of something I certainly don’t have to spend a whole career confronting the repellent. I stopped paying attention to him a while back because his pieces were everywhere and all looked the same. (The thing he did with noses, for instance, seemed like a reflex rather than something that was still being actively chewed on). The story back then ( 80’s) was that they were all about the media – this being the time of the explosion of cable and suddenly TV had a larger presence in everyday life, it became more fluid, more accessible, with more ordinary-type people on.
In his later writings ( check out the “commentary” section on his website) he’s talking about other things, but still using the visual vocabulary of video media.
By the way, I completely agree about the Jim Nutt portraits,
they are beautifully painted, with a liveliness and delicacy that you wouldn’t expect.
I was at the School of the Art Institute at the beginning of the 90s and remember a Paschke retrospective at the museum…I went with a couple of friends, tripping on LSD, and afterwards everyone on the street radiated in that low-voltage neon way that his paintings did…Everyone I’ve ever talked to about him has said he was a lovely and generous person…There’s something admirable about his fidelity to a particular vision, whether it appeals to one or not, it’s something to be respected…
Actually, I think that idea about vision, Dmitry, is a big part of it. I’m sensing there’s a consensus that no one digs the late ones, all the heads, Osama, George Washington, Abe Lincoln as much as the paintings that preceded it. But still, there’s that something confrontational about his staying with them.
Kristin M, I do think Paschke was embracing the ugly of American Pop Culture. The early paintings confront it so deliberately…all the burlesque, the tattoos. The paintings from the 70s seem to be going after something more subtlely garish, if there is such a thing. A connoisseur of garish, if you will. (Thanks for answering Tiarnan’s question; I wouldn’t have had a clue.)
Who here (regulars and lurkers) feels like they are able to confront the ugly on a regular basis? Who, like Kristin, doesn’t see that as such a stomache-able thing to do??
I subscribe fully to the Dave Hickey notion of the enfranchisement of beauty in art, I do think that notions of beauty are constantly being stretched, even fashion now is about a kind of alien freakishness more than a classical notion of beauty. Art beguiles us into accepting the beauty of ugliness sometimes. Yeah, I dare you to parse that one for a coherent line of thought.
actually, when I was younger, I spent most of my time looking at and painting things that I considered ugly. (I lived in Houston at the time; it wasn’t hard to find things like that… ) I think there are certain kinds of ugliness towards which one is drawn; there were definitely some kinds of ugliness that never interested me (Pashke’s interest in media images, for instance, is one I never shared). I think there has to be something there, something to which you feel some kind of connection to get you past the ugliness.
Ugliness is perhaps not even the right word, because eventually these things do become beautiful; “challenging” more accurately describes it, for me. The beauty you end up finding/creating has a certain amount of, for lack of a better word, pain mixed up in it. I think that this is what makes looking at paintings like that compelling – you see the struggle in the transfiguration of the subject.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I’m less interested in confronting ugliness, or at least, the obvious ugliness. You can come to terms with *almost* anything if you ponder it long enough.
confronting the ugly with the beautiful (even the challengingly beautiful) is something i think people have been doing forever.
the venus of willendorf was necessary because of something ugly: the absolute need to procreate and be fertile in the face of subsistence-level existence. the icon became a locus of the practical and the impractical at once, defying what joseph campbell called “the horror of existence” with a beautiful, voluptuous, curving, archetypal form.
confronting the ugly is something i’m always thinking about – hence my stilted attempts to discuss effectiveness and the potential for making positive statements in the context of the contemporary moment. it’s difficult. sometimes i feel more successful than others. one piece i showed at rucshman gallery this spring, “liars” feels to me like it did what i meant it to do – talk about the “ugliness” of the obfuscation of our media and general social arena.
i really liked how simon schama talked about turner’s “slave ship” in his “power of art” series. that it directly confronted the establishment in the context of what people at the time considered to be “ugly” painting makes the work that much more effective in forcing the societal question.
i think enduring art is often engaged in some kind of negotiation between the ugly – be it social, existential, political – and the affirmation of an ethical or practical necessity.