Photos courtesy of John Montich.
Local photographer John Montich collects with his camera lens overlooked items, mementos shoved aside, abandoned objects left to rust and rot. In the case of his upcoming show, Fast Forward?, which opened at Utopia in the East Village Arts District last week, his photographs of unrideable bicycles, the first few taken almost 30 years ago, show just a few of the dozens of discarded bikes he's immortalized with his eye for the neglected.
“I’ve always been a photographer that’s looked at stuff that I think other people don’t look at, the stuff that’s been discarded or put away in the corner or that’s just been, you know, overlooked,” said Montich. “And I think that’s what the bicycle stuff is.”
Montich’s message isn’t blatantly clear, but it’s there for those viewers who want to pit his seven-piece exhibit of dilapidated two-wheelers against the bright-eyed enthusiasm for Long Beach’s bicycle friendliness. Lining Broadway, conveniently one block away from Utopia, the protected bike lanes that show off the city’s intent to become more bicycle-friendly and officially opened for use in 2011, are an example of an idea still in question by many of its users; not that it wasn’t a valiant effort to encourage more cyclists to take to the streets.
The occasionally occupied cycle tracks, as they’re called in this article, have to be wondering at this point, why they were ever implemented in the first place. If the cycling symbols painted on the lanes were replaced with the image of a UPS, FedEx or other delivery truck unloading its contents, users would have a more realistic idea of what those pretty green stripes are actually there for.
But that’s just the opinion of a writer who rides those protected lanes on both 3rd Street and Broadway to travel to and from work five days a week, every morning and evening, who, nine times out of 10, remains the only commuter occupying the “safe” space for pedalers. Who, at least two to three times a week is forced to either illegally ride the sidewalk or hop into a lane occupied by oncoming, unsuspecting motorists to avoid smashing into the rear of an Arrowhead Spring Water truck and its hazard of a delivery man rolling a dolly. And that’s just one of the issues.
“Basically what I say and what’s printable is we’re a city that wants this to be the most bike-friendly city in the world or California or whatever, and all I’m saying is, this is kind of a disparate look at the other side of bicycles,” Montich added.
And while “this writer” admits to using Montich’s upcoming show as a self-serving catalyst for spewing a long-contained rant about downtown Long Beach’s protected bike lanes and the people who seem to actually use them nowadays, Montich doesn’t need to include an explanation with his work, because the message is for the viewers to mull over on their own, much like how this article turned out.
“A long time ago when I first started photography and I went to a well-respected curator and art consultant and people were asking me for statements about my work; we had it all laid out on her living room floor and she says, ‘You don’t need a statement, your work speaks for itself,’” Montich said. “And that’s what I feel about this project. It is what it is, there’s nothing deep, emotional... There’s a message there, but it’s a message to myself and anybody that wants to actually think a little bit. It’s there.”
Fast Forward? will be on view through Saturday, June 11. An Artist’s Reception will take place at Utopia on Saturday, April 23 from 4:00PM to 6:00PM.
Utopia, known for not only good food, but its rotating fine art displays featuring local artists, is located at 445 East First Street.