Ed Paschke

Cobmaster, 1975

American, 1939–2004

Ed Paschke was fascinated by the underbelly of society. As a young man he sought out situations that would expose him to the elements of society most of us are curious about but do not wish to experience directly. He frequented nightclubs and made paintings of strippers, pimps and prostitutes. Additionally, the worlds of wrestling and carnival sideshows provided inspiration for his work

Never literal in his approach, Paschke often translated what he saw by creating composite images. In the tradition of Surrealism which juxtaposes unlikely objects to create disturbing new meanings, Paschke admits to be captivated by “incongruous things that would have shock value”.

Cobmaster is a performer, part male, part female whose oversized grin, braided hair and sunglasses suggest racial stereotypes but whose brilliantly colored blue face immediately mocks those very stereotypes. Wearing a highly patterned costume and ruffled clown collar perhaps a metaphor for the masquerade of role playing, Cobmaster is set against a psychedelic like background. In this outrageous, disquieting painting Paschke acting as a social critic powerfully confronts our assumptions about gender, sexual identity and race.

Purchased in 1976 with a matching grant from the Illinois Arts Council’s Partners in Purchase Program