The Cemetery of Reason is conceived as a mid-career survey of the American artist Ed Templeton. S.M.A.K. has assembled into dazzling clusters of images the photos, paintings and sculptures he has done over the last fifteen years. The exhibition tells the story of a pro skateboarder, a photographer, a draftsman, a painter. A story which, although it focuses on his own life and those of the people around him, transcends the autobiographical and exposes social and societal phenomena unhesitatingly but without pointing a finger.
Ed Templeton’s (b. 1972) work cannot easily be categorised. He was brought up in Orange County, a suburb of Los Angeles, and spent his youth in a world of skateboarding and punk music. While still very young he became a professional skateboarder and at the age of 21 set up his Toy Machine Bloodsucking Skateboard Company, for which he did all the artwork. From an early age he was passionate about drawing and painting, and was enormously stimulated by the work of Egon Schiele, Balthus and David Hockney. Photography has also always been a constant interest. He uses an analogue camera and still prints the images traditionally. In the same way as he was never able to choose between skateboarding and being an artist – they fuel each other – nor has he ever been able to limit himself to one particular medium. Photos, paintings and sculptures complement each other, and are of equal worth, without hierarchy. Templeton often describes his drawings, photos and paintings by means of anecdotes, feelings and ideas that give a new, more profound interpretation to the images. When assembled in an exhibition, these images are deployed as parts of a broader story, but without losing their artistic independence.
Templeton mainly documents his own life and that of the people around him. He portrays himself and his wife Deanna, friends, family and the many people he meets on his skateboard tours. The boys and girls who hang around near a skate park, the boredom of touring, the bloody falls, the late-night parties and the intimate encounters with his wife in anonymous hotel rooms… Being on the road also inspires Templeton into traditional street photography. His career as a pro skateboarder means he spends a lot of time with youngsters who are at an uncertain phase of discovery in their lives. With dreams, hope, worries, the formation of identity and the presentation of the self to the fore. Templeton is ‘one of them’, a skate legend and an ‘example’. This gives him the opportunity to come very close to the world they live in and to record it. He depicts their sexuality, fears, aggression, joy and problems but does not judge them. Although his photo installations and paintings are often highly autobiographical, Templeton at no time tries to deal with his own difficult youth. On the contrary, he wants to create openness and offer insights and opportunities to those who want to grasp them.
The Cemetery of Reason takes the form of a whirlwind of photos, sculptures, drawings and paintings. In some cases, images are clustered by subject and reveal certain phenomena or events, but not in an imperative manner.
Ed Templeton | The Cemetery of Reason | 3 April – 13 June 2010| Curated by Thomas Caron | S.M.A.K. Museum of Modern Art, Citadelpark, 9000, Ghent, Belgium | www.smak.be