Adventures in Suburbia | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Adventures in Suburbia 

Two new art exhibitions explore the world of idyllic neighborhoods.

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click to enlarge ED TEMPLETON
  • Ed Templeton

Crawling high along the foothills, developers appear to be taking over middle-class suburbia—along with every inch of dry land—while building generic neighborhoods akin to those in The Stepford Wives. With identical architecture and yards, these bland blocks are a far cry from the patchwork of styles of the last century.

While eclectic neighborhoods bustling with activities and connections could be fading into a thing of the past, two new exhibits at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) offer a nostalgic and into the lives of Americans at a time when community meant something more than brick and mortar.

Running concurrently, Andrew Dadson's Roof Gap and Deanna and Ed Templeton's Contemporary Suburbium explore the energy and social aspects of suburbia while testing visual boundaries through photographs and video. "These two new shows introduce the figure to the overall conversation about life in the suburbs," Jared Steffensen, UMOCA curator, says. "Hopefully, people will question their notions of the suburbs, their place within them, and how they feel about and interact with the other families that inhabit them."

Dadson's Roof Gap employs the concept of the derive (the drift), a Situationist International-based interaction with architecture that is typically enacted in urban centers. In this instance, the practice is explored in the suburbs. Projected on two large screens in the gallery, the double-synced video installation plays on a continuous loop. Using his own body to critique social norms and property rights with a space between them, Dadson jumps across the gap between the roofs of houses in a Vancouver suburb.

click to enlarge ANDREW DADSON
  • Andrew Dadson

Originally from Canada, contemporary artist Dadson explains via email: "I was interested in the 'boundaries' that separate one neighbor from the next and the connectedness one feels to a community that may or may not be there. Exaggerating this is the fact the houses are all identical, but somehow the gap between them might be bigger than the small gap I was able to jump."

In contrast, the Templetons have taken 71 photographs from their recently released book, Contemporary Suburbium, and will have them installed in opposite corners of the gallery. Documenting the diverse population, social aspects and endless blocks of tract housing, visitors experience a world they might not have seen before.

"The Templetons' focus is on the people in the neighborhood of Huntington Beach where they live," Steffensen says. "Their photos provide a well-rounded document of the suburbs with everything from innocent moments to acts of rebellion to representations of people with extreme belief systems."

Shown throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia, the Templetons' photographs offer a glimpse of growing up in Southern California during the 1970s, as well as modern times and current encounters. Married for many years, both have long embraced street photography as their medium of choice while taking their individual experiences and exposing the ordinary in an extraordinary way.

"We were born into this situation, and made the best of what we were dealt, thriving on the sidewalks and front yards and hidden from the influence of the city," Ed Templeton says on UMOCA's website.

While both exhibits display contrasting views on boundaries—the Templetons' more structured neighborhood shots and Dadson's testing the theory of established boundaries—the connecting thread is the balance of permission and intrusion in all shots. And despite stylistic differences, all three artists offer unique insight into what used to be considered an idyllic lifestyle and neighborhood.

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Colette A. Finney

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