Ed Paschke MMoCA Collects

La Chanteuse

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Ed Paschke, La Chanteuse, oil on linen, 1981.
Ed Paschke. Photograph courtesy of Northwestern University.

Ed Paschke paints a double portrait of two nightclub types: a chanteuse or female vocalist and the lounge lizard. The artist catches them in headshots. The man in profile looks at the singer, while she looks both at him and, oddly, at us. The bare-shouldered chanteuse, with fancy hairdo, wears a pair of radiant earrings and a necklace. The gentleman has donned a flashy Las Vegas-styled sports coat and ruffled shirt with satin bowtie.

If their outfits are fairly realistic in depiction, the features of the couple, with the exception of the man's ear, have been grossly disfigured. They seem to be subjected to some type of video or electronic interference. The woman's mouth is oversized, the large eyes mismatched. The most dramatic disturbance is a series of long horizontals that mark the man's eyes and mouth and the parallel striations of red and blue that represent the woman's hair. The horizontal line that divides the scene in two and the elongated rectangular format of the painting reinforce the slashes of color that deform the figures. Paschke's neon colors are suited to the setting, but they are conflicting and garish, especially the turquoise of the background pitted against the acrid greens. Paschke's expressionist exaggerations negatively affect the nature of the rapport between the man and woman. The physical distortions of the figures suggest psychological tensions. If the painting evokes the excitement and glittering artificiality of nightlife, its colors and shapes assert a darker side to human relationships.