This exhibition of canvases by the veteran Chicago Imagist Ed Paschke features a group of paintings of giant heads. In several of the key works on view he tackles classical ideals of beauty. A number of the larger canvases (each about 60-by-78 inches) show sculptural heads of gods from Greco-Roman antiquity. Paschke, of course, puts them through the filter of his hallucinogenic imagination, but the results are astonishingly clear, graceful and perhaps even beautiful in the classical sense of the term.
Lemonata, for instance, is a radiant canvas filled by a large head of Hera, whose face is distorted by translucent horizontal bands of red and blue. Inside one band delicately etched leaf patterns cover part of the earth goddess's face like a tattoo. Another series of smaller canvases contain heads with cowry shell eyes. Gypsy Wheel, a particularly striking work, shows a head wearing a kind of crown decorated with a row of human ears. The figure stares at what might be described as a cosmic wheel of fortune glowing in space. Donald Kuspit may not be exaggerating in the catalogue essay when he says that "Paschke's pictures have the same spiritual aspirations as Kandinsky." At the very least, Paschke, in this haunting exhibition, appears to sacrifice at the altar of a very strange cult.
Ed Paschke, Oct. 5-Oct. 30, 1999, at Gallery B.A.I., 575 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012.
DAVID EBONY is assistant managing editor of Art in America.