Ed Paschke once described his work as “translation”—appropriating photos and other imagery from popular culture, and transforming them into his own idiom. His work is marked everywhere by an engagement with the world of photomechanically reproduced images, like those of photography, movies and television. “I’m interested in scanning and selecting from this reality,” he once said, and by “this reality” he meant the saturation of commercial images all around us, everywhere, powerful and inescapable. When a whole lot of Paschkes are put in a small room, the pressure of this saturation is palpable. They make us notice, for instance, the inescapability of faces in this capitalist mediasphere: and this may be why Paschke’s faces are distorted into blank masks with cowrie-like orifices, or put into constricting bondage masks, or whose noses, eyes and ears have become Mr. Potato Head accessories. Many of the faces are painted in the inverted colors of photographic negatives: black, violet and lime. Paschke’s exercise of translation is one that preserves the original as a defeated ghost, and these pictures document those exorcisms. This is especially true of the later, more overtly political works, like “Force of Nature” from 1990 or “With God on our Side” from 2003. The show is split between the main gallery and a gallery annex, around the corner on 750 North Orleans. In the annex, early drawings show the influence of surrealism (“Green Buckle Shoes,” 1972), Pop Art (“Top Cat,” 1970), and underground comics (“Cleon,” 1974). All of these come to a magnificent synthesis in “Janina,” from 1974, which is in the main gallery—and this makes a trip back from the annex totally worthwhile. (David Mark Wise)
At Russell Bowman Art Advisory, 311 West Superior Suite 115, through May 10.