Ed Paschke: Visionary from Chicago, 1968–2004 is the third in the Ashmolean’s series of exhibitions of postwar and contemporary art presented in collaboration with the Hall Art Foundation (USA). In addition to loans from the Ed Paschke Foundation, four works have been lent by the artist Jeff Koons. Koons, who studied with Paschke and was hired as Paschke’s studio assistant in 1974, has contributed an interview with exhibition curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, to the exhibition catalogue.

Part of a group of artists known as the Chicago Imagists who emerged in the 1960s, Paschke (1939–2004) was strongly influenced by media imagery and popular culture – newspapers, magazines, advertisements, film and television. In works like Hilda (1973) and Mannish Boy (1970), his brilliantly coloured, provocative and surreal paintings of circus freaks, tattooed ladies, transvestites, wrestlers and hairy wingtip shoes, 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.

Born in Chicago, Edward F. Paschke studied painting at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where he received his BFA in 1961 and MFA in 1970. From 1978 until the year of his death, he was Professor of Art and Art History at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His work is included in numerous public collections worldwide including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna. Major exhibitions include Ed Paschke: Selected Works 1967–1981, held at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, which traveled to the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (1982); Ed Paschke Retrospective organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, which traveled to the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas (1989–1990); and Ed Paschke: Chicago Icon. A Retrospective, held at the Chicago History Museum, Illinois (2006–2007). Paschke lived and worked in Chicago until his death in 2004.

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.’