Rochester Contemporary, or RoCo, is a not-profit gallery off of East Ave in the city of Rochester. Each year they plan a show that involves two artists whose work either encompasses similar ideas, or complements each other through materials. This year’s successful Duo exhibit involves two artists, Carin Mincemoyer of Pittsburgh, Pa., whose work is the miniature styrofoam landscapes and Julian Montague of Buffalo, N.Y., who photographs and catalogues shopping carts.
Landscapes made from carefully arranged packing styrofoam along with plants aren’t usually the things one sees when entering a gallery. But this was the art work that greeted me when I entered Rochester Contemporary and began looking at the current show ‘Systems and Propositions.’
In front of me, as I entered the space, was a mountain created from stacking pieces of styrofoam, and in the hollow shapes meant to cradle an appliance, small trees and grass grew. There was a plain to one side of the mountain, open spaces and rolling grassy fields, also contained in styrofoam. To the other side was the marsh. Small amounts of pond scum grew in round styrofoam containers. Grow lights hung above the whole thing, and each growing plant struggled toward the one nearest them. Behind me more grow lights hung over a miniature desert with small cacti growing in beds of sand.
Julian Montague’s photographs were large and glossy prints that had no frame and were simply covered by clear glass. Moving closer, I found that I was looking at a photograph of a shopping cart. Printed under the photo was the classification B1. Photos were displayed scientifically in this way. It was as if the photos were being tagged and mapped out as if at the scene of a crime, or used as evidence in a scientific case study. Each photo showed a cart or a grouping of carts that were positioned in different geographical locations, under different geographical and human influences.
Montague’s photographs very systematically deal with this type of classification, while at the same time poking fun at its seriousness, and the rigidity with which we carry it out. His photographic project traces six years of careful study of shopping carts. Amidts his photographs is a chart that looks much like the periodic table for chemistry. It explains the entire organization system that Montague has worked out for classifying shopping carts as they are found in our day-to-day lives. This pokes fun at the idea of classifications, yet carries with it a commentary on human consumption and disposal as it relates to nature. Shopping carts are trampled and shifter by humans and moved by nature through time.
The effort of both artists seemed to be focused on the juxtaposition of man and nature and mans control, commodification and classification of nature. Mincemoyer’s landscapes in packing styrofoam made me think of the ways in which we have made nature our convenient play thing, and how we make commodities out of the raw materials nature presents us with. The plants also being miniature, and real, made me think about how much man has changed nature in our commodification of it. I wondered while looking at this piece if in the future we will grow trees of any size that fits our convenience.
Both artists have previously showed their work in galleries across New York. The display of their works together strengthens each artists overall message. They are both to an extent playful, Montague with his hilarious classification system, and Mincemoyer’s fanciful containment of nature. Yet they both broach the important discussion of mans effect on nature.