Not surprisingly, the words "curated by Jeff Koons" seem to mean cramming a whole lot of work into a space, thus turning it into a boardwalk funhouse.
And what better artist than Koonsy’s mentor, the late Ed Paschke, to ramp up uptown Gagosian Gallery into a tunnel of love / house of horrors? A little of Paschke’s art-expo colors over glaring archetypes of Americana goes a long way, but it is undeniable that Paschke’s paintings point the way to the Postmodern America of Bladerunner, Don Ed Hardy and full-body tattoos.
This is the kind of work where it is sufficient to own just one. Choice among the wide estate selection at Gagosian are: star-spangled paintings of Marilyn Minter-style shoes; a tattooed woman in pink underwear; two African-American heads emerging like snakes from a scary mask; a freaky-deaky cowboy grinning over two mustachioed blue-collar guidos; and a double-portrait of Mayor Richard Daley emerging from two giant bazoombas.
Grinning widely at the opening, collector Hubert Neumann, whose painting Chainboy is featured in the lobby of Gagosian’s building, told me, "In 1970, I borrowed this Paschke from the Museum of Modren Art lending library for $30 a month with an option to buy. I then purchased Chainboy for $475 and now it is the featured painting in the show."
Presumably the Paschkes cost a lot more now, but gallery employees were spotted wearing neat Paschke lapel buttons of ghoulish double heads, which one expects to see in Gagosian’s Madison Avenue store. In any case, the Paschke brand has begun to be marketed in earnest, like that of Don Ed Hardy, at Gagosian and beyond. Chicago’s "Hairy Who" rebel, a true visionary if not a truly great artist, will now become, in death, one of the American brands he loved to satirize.
Ed Paschke, curated by Jeff Koons, Mar. 18-Apr. 24, 2010, at Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10075
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).