The Iconoclast: Joe Rudko

AGE 25
HOMETOWN Woodinville, Wash.
CURRENT OBSESSION Bob Dylan’s 1970 album Self Portrait
UNLIKELY INFLUENCE The Phantom Tollbooth
Roller blading
Kitty on my lap

“Because photography is still such a young medium—the most ubiquitous of the mediums we use in our everyday lives—I see it as fertile ground to push it into different territories, to continue to define it,” says Joe Rudko.

Though he has a degree in photography, Rudko’s work is a convergence of drawing, collage, photography and sculpture. He breaks pictures down and builds them back up, creating hypnotic, kaleidoscopic geometries woven together from dozens—even hundreds—of thinly cut strips of found photos. Images zigzag or slide sideways into surreal, smeary pixelation. From afar, they look glitchy and digital; up close they’re intricate, handmade paper tapestries. The technical precision of each piece is mind-boggling.

Since graduating from Western Washington University two years ago and debuting his work in Seattle with a small exhibit at Vignettes, Rudko’s unique pieces have been flying off the walls at fairs and galleries alike. In December, he took a whirlwind trip to Art Basel Miami, where his Portland-based gallery, PDX Contemporary, exhibited his work to massive crowds. Then he buckled down for a month at the prestigious Vermont Studio Center, making work for a solo show at PDX in June.

Rudko also takes on occasional commercial gigs (one of his images graces the cover of the most recent Death Cab for Cutie album) and he frequently plays curator at his apartment gallery, Two Shelves.

Operated out of a Capitol Hill apartment with his partner, artist Kelly Bjork, the tiny gallery gives exhibiting artists a mere 120 inches of shelf space in which to install their work—what Rudko describes as a “barely dimensional space.” Since March 2014, the couple has facilitated 16 exhibits in their living room, which overflows with wooden flat files, potted succulents and a drafting desk piled with X-ACTO blades and paint palettes. During Art Walk, strangers and friends alike are invited up to crack a Rainier and talk art with the hosts.

Photo by Steve Korn