Joe Rudko

VizArts Monthly: April is about photography

It's Portland Photo Month, so a bunch of photography shows are expected, but there's lots more to see, too

While we have yet to escape the various micro-seasons of post-winter, pre-spring Portland (such as Fool’s Spring, Mud Season, and Third Winter), blossoms are indeed blooming and the list of events and openings is getting fuller and fuller.

For example, we’ve got a rich crop of photography shows this April. I’m sure there’s some sort of “exposure” pun to be had from the fact that they’re going up at the same time the sun is starting to come out, but of course we’re above such jokes here at Artswatch. And in any case it probably has more to do with the fact that it’s Portland Photo Month.

If handmade images are more your thing, man have we got a group show for you. Overall, this month’s roundup features a number of colorful options that range from intensely personal to riotously social, with plenty in between.

Themes include: faces, small art spaces, and the experience of being from other places.


Joe Rudko: The photographer’s eye

At PDX Contemporary, Joe Rudko pieces together an exhibition from 100-year-old photographs


The experience of seeing Album, a series of medium-scale photo assemblages by photographer Joe Rudko at PDX Contemporary, is a slow burn. Initially, it is difficult to be sure what you’re looking at and why it matters, but the work continues to unfold and astonish as you walk through the gallery.

In “Sky Through Trees,” which greets you on a near wall, Rudko pieces together torn black-and-white photographs featuring parts of trees in every conceivable state—leafy, bare, snow-covered—to create a puzzle-like composition. Solitary trunks, meandering limbs, and feathered deciduous branches fit together like a hundred memories recalled all at once, the darkness of the wood always offset against light clear skies. Rudko constructs a frame for the new composition out of the retained white borders of the photo pieces along its perimeter.

Joe Rudko, "Sky Through Trees", 2016, torn photographs on paper, 15" x 11"

Joe Rudko, “Sky Through Trees”, 2016, torn photographs on paper, 15″ x 11″

Rudko treats images of clouds, shadows, and water similarly in three other pieces—each assemblage offering a collective imagining of a single subject. The work takes on a remarkable dimension when you discover that every photo in the series came from a trove of thousands, taken between 1902-2005, that Rudko found in an abandoned shed in Washington. In each piece, the artist highlights an image or a theme that kept presenting itself as he was sorted through a century’s worth of snapshots. In this way, Album conveys what matters to us most.