Death Metal Summer

Death Metal Summer

Death Metal Summer: Deanna Templeton and Ed Templeton brings together more than 140 photographs by two of our era’s most vital artists.

With works from 1995-2022 selected and laid out in three large wall installations, it is a highly energetic overview of their overlapping visions. The show features many of the married couple’s most famous images – from Deanna’s exquisite swimming pool photos to Ed’s iconic pipe skating work – as well as those shot on their local turf Huntington Beach, California, where late capitalist life and the suburban dream are collapsing in on themselves.

Shooting with film and employing an off-the-cuff street-style manner, the artists respond to the chaotic intensity and impossible beauty and sadness of life in a manner that seems that there is always something at stake.

And for both of them there always has been.

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About the Artists

Ed became a professional skateboarder a month before graduating from high school in 1990. He credits skateboarding and art as sustaining him through challenging teenage years. Instead of falling apart, instead of getting caught up in drugs and alcohol, it was these creative mediums that, in his own words, ‘deformed’ him in a more productive way. He started taking photos of life around him on the professional skateboarding tour in the year he began his own skateboard brand, Toy Machine. This included antics at parties, in vans, other skaters, and all the layers of people who lived in and around the streets he skated. His subjects included those who, like him and Deanna, did not fit into the world of regular jobs, suburban dreams, and financial aspiration.

There’s a great line from Ed about his childhood in this respect in Mike Mills’ mini film Deformer, 2000, about the pair:

My dad ran off when I was 8 years old with an 18-year-old babysitter. For a while I was a ninja, then I quickly found skateboarders and punkers. They were the only people who accepted just about anyone… A lot of people have a fucked up family and it deforms you, but I got deformed in a better way.

It was a little different for Deanna. She started taking photos at the age of fifteen, shooting the LA punk scene she was engaging with literally every single night, with a camera her parents had bought her to hopefully save her from falling out of their orbit. Yet she was full of doubts and insecurities about every level of herself and her life, self-harming, dealing with an eating disorder, filling her self-made diaries with her reflections. And moving place to place, losing all the photos of her bar one. And so her shots of young women became stand-in self-portraits, as she says: ’I see my own struggles, disappointment and bravery in these girls’. She would later often pair these with her portraits of other young women as she found a legion of troubled kindred spirits around her as seen in her recent major work (book and exhibition) What She Said. Importantly, her perspective also extended to how she documented her life with Ed on the skateboard tour, revealing the flip-side of the male dominated scene they were a part of.

Their single images succeed in grasping our attention and can be located in a lineage of photographers that includes those like Bresson, Frank, Arbus, Lange and Goldberg. Yet, as their images accumulate, and as presented in exhibitions such as this, as well as in their zines and books, their practices form a complex matrix documenting the breakdown of an entire social fabric based on a set of unsustainably hypocritical moral codes and their spatial formations. In the process, therefore, their works draw almost constant attention to the flicker between giddy moments of release and the most intensely problematic aspects of human life - like poverty and racism, unrestrained power, sexism – that are intimately connected to the collapse of Imperial and nationalist ideals that excluded and damaged so many.

A couple since they met as teenagers ditching school to go see a Red Hot Chilli Peppers gig, Deanna’s work also charted a different experience of life on the pro-skateboarding tour that she shared with Ed who was one of the most famous skaters of his era. Quite naturally, their works connect with and complement each other in various ways, as they continue to both wrestle with their places in worlds that never quite fitted them, finding glimpses of themselves in the people and scenes they depict as alternate selves succeeding or failing in the maelstrom.

So while they offer a gloves-off critical take on the failure of various social and national ideals they balance this with moments of incredible tenderness and empathy, with a keen eye for occasions of tender, searching beauty and vulnerability.

Robert Cook
AGWA Curator of Contemporary Art

Artist Bios

Deanna Templeton

born 1969 Huntington Beach, California
works Huntington Beach, California

Deanna Templeton began her photographic practice at the age of 15 shooting the LA punk scene. Her works now are held in the collection of MoMA and she has produced many photo books including What She Said, 2021 and the famous The Swimming Pool from 2017. A large installation of material from What She Said was shown in 2023 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the exhibition Kinship: Photography and Connection.

Ed Templeton

born 1972 Garden Grove, California
works Huntington Beach, California

Ed Templeton was one of the most successful professional skateboarders of the 1990s, and since then one of the biggest names in global photography. He founded the skateboard brand Toy Machine in 1994, a company he continues to run. His work is in the collections of MoMA, LACMA, and the Stedelijk amongst many others. In 2009 Ed’s book Deformer won Best Book of the Year, at the International Festival of Photography, in Rome and in 2000 his book Teenager Smokers won the Search for Art, Grand Prize in Milan.

On Saturday 27 August, the Gallery is open 10am-3pm only as we prepare for the AGWA Foundation Gala supporting women in the arts. Some exhibition access will be disrupted with two Tracks We Share ground floor galleries closed. AGWA Rooftop bar will be closed, reopening at 2pm Sunday. Details