Smalter Gallery

TJ Templeton at Smalter Gallery, KCMO 9/22

‘Abundance’ is the new show of mixed media works by Tj Templeton at Kansas City’s Smalter Gallery. The show opened on September 2, 2022. The show is filled with some wonderful mixed media paintings contrasting the haves and have-nots.

*all photos are my phone pics of TJ Templeton’s work at the Smalter Gallery*

TJ Templeton’s show at the Smalter Gallery is a treat for the eyes. The mixed media work, divided between ‘Abundance’ and ‘Reclining Man’ series displays the inequality of resources plaguing modern life. By using the ubiquitous door of a refrigerator, Templeton adroitly spotlights the unnoticed wealth of comfort and excess that is taken for granted. This is paired against the outdoor existence of the homeless in the Reclining Man series. 

TJ Tempelton – Abundance Series

Using silk screens, pencil and acrylic paint, the Abundance series recalls the work of Jasper Johns and pop art. Similar compositions of an open refrigerator door acts as the backdrop for Templeton to experiment with tone, color and the physical sense of the substrate in interesting ways. He manages to achieve a wonderful sense of physicality in the work using the barest of physical mediums – screens and acrylic washes. Images move in and out throughout the series, spotlighting common and recognizable shapes of condiment bottles. The bottles are supplemented with screened labels, caps and lids. It’s worth noting that the labels are all brand names, not store brands, and ‘organic’ is also noticed, which even implies other divides in the social strata. 

TJ Templeton’s use of color is wonderful, it comes off as a welcome highlight in some of the muddier, darker images, but really steals the show in the more vivid pieces. The colors are saturated and vibrant, giving off a candy like atmosphere. Templeton’s skill wrapping his message in a crowd pleasing palette is reminiscent of 10,000 Maniacs’ sarcastic song ‘Candy Everybody Wants’. Templeton’s color choices are magnified when looking across the gallery at the other half of the work – the Reclining Man series.   


Reclining Man Series

The foil to abundance, the Reclining Man series contemplates the life of the homeless. This series is much more ethereal than the Abundance paintings. The same techniques of screens, acrylic and drawing are used, but to drastically different effect. The images hover and feel open and light, unbound by the constraints of the more object oriented refrigerator door imagery. Grass and foliage become intricate patterns upon which the exterior imagery is built – then revealing a leg, a chair, cups, road signs and assorted objects that come in and out of focus. 

There’s an utter beauty to the Reclining Man series that is breathtaking. Templeton’s ability to use imagery in a non-descript way that defies the imagery itself.  In this respect, TJ Templeton goes one step further than Rauschenberg . TJ Templeton pushes the imagery past imagery to create a unified composition that breathes and exists on its own. After a beat, the imagery is found by the viewer. 

The ease with which one can move between the seemingly more pop oriented and intangible series is wonderful. Templeton’s work displays a controlled confidence. His ability to not only reconstruct the same imagery unearths new levels from it. More importantly, it shows his knowledge when to let go, let things go unsaid. This achievement is more impressive work when imagery becomes secondary but yet the missive and tone comes through completely.

"Abundance" September 2022 TJ Templeton