Collection Spotlight: Flamenco, Ed Paschke

Ed Paschke (American, 1939–2004)
Flamenco, 1991
Eight-color screenprint
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchase funds provided by Leigh and Henry Bienen, Sarah Pritchard and Neal Blair, and Lori and Ted Souder, 2008.22

Flamenco is a screenprint by well-known Chicago artist Ed Paschke. Paschke was trained at the School of the Art Institute (BFA 1961, MFA 1970), and taught in the Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern from 1977 until his death in 2004. Often described as a surrealist painter, Paschke also worked extensively in prints. He enjoyed using jarring color compositions to get the viewer’s attention. As visible in this print, he was also deeply fascinated by the circulation of images in marketing and mass media; by the late 90s, he was teaching and thinking about the way the internet and the rise of digital images were profoundly changing how art was made and seen. Strongly influenced by Andy Warhol, he often reappropriated commercial images in his prints, making them his own through his signature use of color, by layering other images on top, or adding elements and patterns through collage or drawing. He also drew from pop imagery in his work, and preferred to depict communities often seen as outside the mainstream, such as burlesque dancers and circus performers. Paschke’s studio was located on Howard Street in Rogers Park, an area from which he drew inspiration.

Paschke focused on faces in both his paintings and his prints, often rendering the faces anonymous by adding repeating patterns or geometric shapes covering the eyes, nose or mouth. The subjects in his work become larger-than-life characters. In this piece, Paschke has added two faces on the bottom and embellished all the faces in the work with the same, almost Basquiat-style lines around major facial features. The accordion players are shown in bright yellow that is an unnatural shade for human skin, and the female player has a golden halo around her head. The image is typical of Paschke in its colors, playful manipulation and accentuation of facial features, and in its appropriation and reassembly of found images.

Paschke once noted that viewers either loved or hated his work, and both reactions were acceptable to him: he just did not want viewers to be indifferent to it. Thanks to his bold use of color, inventive subject material and appropriation of pop culture imagery, it is hard to see a Paschke and not have some response.

— Contributed by Beth Derderian, Block Museum of Art 2017-18 Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and curator of the Fall 2018 exhibition Break A Rule: Ed Paschke’s Art and Teaching

Block Collection Spotlight invites a closer look at objects in the Block Museum permanent collection from students, staff, faculty, and museum audiences.

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