indoor landscapes : Newman/Popiashvili Gallery, New York

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Blue to Green

Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both.
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Green comes from blue, but it surpasses blue.
—Chinese proverb

Her green mind made the world around her green.
—Wallace Stevens, Description without Place

Susa Templin has moved from blue to green. Her works once featured azure swimming pools, air bubbles, and liquid skies; now they include verdant branches, nylon lawns, and urban jungles. They have moved from underwater to interforrest, from negative architecture to negative agriculture. But this move accompanies another, more important transition: from photographs of reality to photographs as reality; from images on walls to images instead of walls: from display to environment. In other words, from landscape to landscaping.
This artist is not new to installation—in past shows she has arranged varied objects and images on walls, floors and windows. But she has never so intimately surrounded her audience as she does in this exhibition. In preparation for landscaping Suite 106, Templin made a model of its de Monchaux white cube out of 35mm slides in cardboard mounts and cardboard squares the same size. To understand the model, one does not so much look at it or even through it as imagine oneself inside it. Which requires imagining oneself as an impossibly small body, projecting oneself into an impossible position. It was while straining to displace myself this way in her studio that I recognized the experience as familiar: all of Templin’s best works—not just her models for them—imply an impossibly ideal space saturated with impossibly beautiful colors (which suggests that her longstanding utopian tendencies have found their natural expression in landscaping, whose definition is “to adorn or improve by contouring”). What’s new is that now, by landscaping, she goes beyond representing that space and puts us in it.
Templin works promiscuously with divers elements, none of which is more likely to be an end than a means: each can always function as a tool and a raw material. Prints get cut up, reassembled, and rephotographed; lenses are removed from cameras and used as magnifying glasses; landscape slides are projected on the artist’s body, whose shadow is photographed where it falls against a wall; oversize blades of plastic grass cradle toy trees and real plant parts, only to be photographed and enlarged on a film through which one can view the gallery windows, which are themselves laminated with translucent photographs of trees. And this installation will of course be photographed, perhaps while you and Susa are in it. So each of her elements participates in a stream of transformations with pauses. And when she pauses, she has another space, another book, another exhibition, another cigarette.
Mark Woods
March 2002, New York