Ten years ago this Thanksgiving, Chicago’s most popular, if not most important painter passed away. This hardly registered a blip on the art world’s radar screen. The biggest reaction this event could generate was a paragraph at best in the important art rags. Even the local news media had a hard time finding any of his work on display at our local art institutions. If our biggest art star couldn’t get any respect, what does that mean for the rest of the artists in Chicago?
Well ten years later, Paschke is finally getting his due. The Ed Paschke Art Center opened on what would be the artist’s 75th birthday. An open, tri-level exhibition space carved out of a small two-story commercial building in Jefferson Park, it is a welcome addition to the art scene in Chicago and a fine tribute to one of our own.
The center’s location reflects Paschke’s working class roots and is not too far from one of his childhood homes and his home in Sauganash. Although to the uninitiated it may seem out of the way, it is just steps from the Jefferson Park transportation center. This makes it accessible by Metra UP Northwest Line, CTA Blue Line and numerous Pace and CTA bus routes. There is no excuse not to make this a regular art destination.
One of the perceived problems with the Chicago art scene is that it is spread over such a large area. There are pockets of art activity scattered in many different communities. This perhaps could be one of the city’s greatest strengths.
The Paschke Art Center joins a growing list of recent local art centers that have been established in the last decade or so. It is in good company. There is Theaster Gates’ Arts Incubator in Washington Park, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in the Ukrainian Village, the DePaul Art Museum in Lincoln Park, Firecat in Bucktown, 6018 North in Edgewater, the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square, Zhou Brothers and Bridgeport Art Centers in Bridgeport, and the soon-to-open Nick Cave studio in Old Irving Park. The list goes on. These spaces join the venerable older local institutions such as the Evanston Art Center and Block Museum in Evanston, Smart Museum and Hyde Park Art Center in Hyde Park and the Beverly Arts Center in Beverly. These centers not only bring art to the communities but allow for communities to engage with art on a more intimate and personal level.
Happy Birthday Ed Paschke
The inaugural exhibition at The Ed Paschke Art Center is, of course, a retrospective of the painter’s work. In the main gallery are the more recent vibrant neon works of the last couple of decades that included some of his holographic experimentations. In the lower gallery were his more garish stuff from the ’60s and ’70s. Upstairs, you’ll find a faithful reproduction of his cluttered Howard Street studio (bonus points for the light shades made of canvas scraps and the Windsor and Newton rack garbage picked from and art supply store). Seeing his studio alone is worth the trip.
The best part of the opening was seeing all of the people from the neighborhood and beyond experiencing his work. From what I could tell most of the visitors did not know much about him or his work but were very inspired by it. They were asking questions, talking about the work, and sharing a sort of pride that Ed is one of them. They were taking pictures of each other standing next to the Michael Jordan portrait. Artwork from children inspired by the colors of Ed’s paintings were hung across from the work from the ’60s and ’70s, ironically, not too far from the warning label about Paschke’s work being offensive to more sensitive viewers — “Viewer discretion is Advised.” Plus, everyone was treated to an Ed Paschke coloring book!
The Ed Paschke Art Center is a welcome addition to the Chicago art world and I look forward to what they have in store for the future.
Ed Paschke Art Center
5415 W. Higgins
Chicago, IL 60630
Admission is free
Open 7 days per week
10 A.M. to 7 P.M.