Bridget Riley, 1968
Ed Paschke was a member of the late-1960s Chicago Imagist movement, a group of artists whose expressive style of figurative painting was rooted in outsider art, popular culture, and Surrealism. Their art added heat to Pop Art’s cool aesthetic. Mid American, an early painting that Paschke reworked several times, exemplifies the artist’s characteristic style, which utilized luminous, electric colors and fantastic imagery, yet remained rooted in a gritty realism. The confrontational, satin-robed athlete appears playfully otherworldly, with enlarged wing-tipped spats—a significant precursor to Paschke’s later shoe paintings—that emerge like butterfly wings behind his shoulders. The inscription on his shorts, Our Cover—like the tattoo on his chest, the mask on his face, the baseball mitts that float next to him, and his athletic attire—suggests the social markings used to conceal, protect, and layer a middle-class, middle-American identity.