LOS ANGELES — Benjamin Lord’s grossly delectable photographs, on view in his exhibition The New Retail Mycology at Monte Vista Projects, invite viewers to closely consider the social construction of a landscape. In each of the seven photographs on display, viewers encounter a mixture of organic and manmade materials arranged in some sort of amorphous, non-linear structure. Recognizable, store-bought objects become part of forms that one could easily imagine growing in the trash, a strange amalgamation of organisms and consumer rubble. The cleanly designed frames and perfectly aligned colors of each piece offer a funny contrast with the detritus-inspired structure within.
In “The New Retail Mycology VI,” a miniature cutting board rests amid a curly, gnarly interweaving of multicolored twisted material that’s tied together at the corners with pink rope. There’s also a pocketknife in this arrangement, as well as a pile of wood-colored shavings. In “The New Retail Mycology V,” the fur of a rodent hangs from stacked sticks that stand over a bed of light green, curled-up paper and a collection of Duracell batteries.
The work sharply juxtaposes its unrecognizable, organic-seeming forms and the clearly branded consumer objects like liquor or batteries that are woven into them with vibrantly colored materials. Other than highlighting such surprising, awkward layerings, however, it’s unclear what the point is. In these cryptic landscapes, nothing seems to matter but the message the viewer projects onto them.
Lord does take great care in his creation of forms, even blending in some possible art historical references. In “The New Retail Mycology III,” a periwinkle blue background sets the stage for a heap of white, roundish objects that could be small rocks, pieces of foam, or popcorn gone wrong. They’re arranged in a spiral-like position, peppered with gold chunks that look like wrappers from Hershey’s mini chocolate bars. At the end of the spiral, we see a few small bottles of Jack Daniels and a boat-like structure where fungi grow. Could this be a chemical-induced, quasi-psychedelic, consumerist transformation of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty“? We’ll never know for sure, but with a collection of handheld castoffs, Photoshop, and a single-color background, any environment is possible.
Benjamin Lord: The New Retail Mycology continues at Monte Vista Projects (5442 Monte Vista Street, Highland Park, Los Angeles) through March 1.