Ed Templeton: Memory Foam
Jan 12 – Feb 16, 2013
Roberts & Tilton
by Eve Wood
Ed Templeton’s newest foray into human psychology has borne some wondrous fruit as his most recent exhibition at Roberts & Tilton attested. Delving headlong into deeply personal territory, having deliberately made images of life in and around his hometown of Huntington Beach, CA, Templeton has managed to mitigate loss with redemption, and the results are riveting. This project could easily have gone awry as oftentimes artists fall prey to their own heightened sense of nostalgia. Not so with Templeton. These images are as raw and unforgiving as they are luminous and moving. Largely comprised of images of people “living their lives” so to speak, whether that be smoking, sleeping, gazing out at an endless sea, arguing in public, or any other activity, Templeton captures them purely and without undue sentiment.
Images like “4th of July Patriot,” for example suggest a deeply felt human authenticity a la Diane Arbus or Nan Goldin where the subject’s gaze and attitude tell an uncompromising story that is both extraordinary and painful. Here, the young man, dressed in full American flag regalia, shorts and shirt, appears affable and humble as he looks directly at the camera, a smile on his face. What makes this image extraordinary however is not so much the color-coordinated outfit or even the young man’s gaze, but his winsome expression and comically large ears. Templeton has photographed him against a plain wall without distractions, and thus the man’s physiognomy becomes the viewer’s central focus, as the man appear awkward and fragile in contrast to his strident costume.
Other images in the exhibition are composed more as landscapes, yet still retain a palpable connection to the human aspect, as elements of both setting and portraiture are treated with Templeton’s keen eye for the casually urgent and broadly symbolic. “Kids Making Faces In Sand,” for example is humorous but also retains a kind of impromptu pathos as the kids in the image seem isolated from one another despite their proximity and interaction. Perhaps there is an unintentional narrative here -- that this image is an allegory for the world at large, positing that we are all unaware of our connectedness, and risk drifting further apart all the time.
Templeton’s sharpest weapon here, and what allows these images to exist without the burden of sentimentality, is his use of humor. Several images are downright funny, such as “Man with Wave Shirt” where the man stands looking out over the ocean, seeming to choose the depicted over the actual experience. There is a certain arm’s-length in the narratives that run throughout these images, wherein men and women, boys and girls, are seen as moving through the world yet frozen in their progress.
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