Wavepool – How would you explain your body of work Object Drawings to someone encountering it for the first time?
Joe Rudko – It’s about the way photography and images in general can shape our visual perception. I appropriate existing images and look for new ways of interpreting them. My work happens between the flatness of a physical photograph and its illusionistic space. I’m not sure whether to call them drawings, photographs, sculpture, or collage.
Wavepool – What is the process to make a piece in the series like? Is it important to be working on multiple pieces at a time and allow things to sit for awhile, or do you prefer to focus and work singularly?
Joe Rudko – The process is always shifting and being tweaked. I’m interested in understanding how the photographic processes describe the world. My own process is a response to specific images that have the potential to articulate the nuances of photographic vision. I’ve been collecting images from various sources since about 2008, and most of them are antique photographs. When there’s enough time and distance from the original context of an image, it opens itself up to a number of interpretations. I use those factual cracks to insert my own propositions about it’s meaning.
Some Object Drawings are made with the help of a paper shredder, where photographic bits mimic digital pixels. Others use the physical edges of photographs as an opportunity to shift into an isometric perspective, a very flat way to describe 3-dimensional space. I find that working on multiple approaches at the same time allows the ideas to intermingle and fertilize one another.
Wavepool – In addition to found photographic images, you also make use of photographic ephemera such as envelopes, boxes, etc. Why is it important for you to include these materials?
Joe Rudko – I’m trying to tap into the framework that surrounds photography. Photo corners, film boxes, drugstore envelopes – all provide a physical context for the subject of the image. They bring a sense of touch to the work – they’re a very tactile component within photography.
Wavepool – Some of your recent work has been sculptural. Tell me about that process. Do you see it taking on a larger presence in your practice moving forward?
Joe Rudko – Working sculpturally is a way to expand on the two-dimensional surface of a photograph and its subject matter. Photographs convey a specific moment and surface of space, and sculptures can physically describe the volume of space. Treating a photograph as a sculpture could be a more holistic way to look at and represent the world. I’m interested in the potential for an image to communicate to a viewer, and acknowledging the physical properties of it and its original context are some of the components necessary to understand that potential.
I think there’s a common language between sculpture and photography that I’m very interested in. Despite being the most physical of art mediums, sculpture relies on the least physical – photography, in order to document and present itself. As early as the 1840’s, William Henry Fox Talbot was photographing sculptural busts, and the ubiquity of the medium changed the way sculptors worked. More and more work was being designed for the camera rather than the real life experience. I think I’m interested in that same thing today. As more of our lives are lived in virtual spaces it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between the virtual and the real.
Wavepool – Is traditional photography still an important part of your practice?
Joe Rudko – Right now I’ve stopped producing my own physical photographs. At the same time I am consistently influenced by the language used in traditional photography to describe the world. It’s influence on the contemporary image landscape is huge, and more and more apart of our daily social media lives. I’m often taking photos on my phone to see how a drawing or small sculpture can function on a screen compared to looking at the actual thing. I want to make work that is interesting in both places simultaneously.
Wavepool – I’d love to hear about your curatorial project Two Shelves. How did it begin and what are you looking to do with it in the future?
Joe Rudko – Two Shelves is the in-home gallery that I run with my partner Kelly Bjork. It’s literally on one wall that has two shelves mounted to it. The idea for the space developed after having my BFA thesis show at an in-home gallery in Seattle called Vignettes. That experience allowed me to connect to an entire community of artists, many of whom I was only vaguely aware of through the Internet. I was starting to show some of my own work on shelves as a way to imply physical weight to the work; to make a clear distinction between the online/offline experience. Opening up a gallery space with those parameters built-in was a way to spread that idea.
Since the first Two Shelves show in March of 2014, it has grown into an active testing-ground and meeting place for artists and thinkers in Seattle. We host receptions about once a month, hold appointments, and facilitate interviews. It’s a project that has taken on a life of its own. I’m excited for our summer line-up, which includes shows from John Keppelman (Bellingham, WA), Drew Miller (Brooklyn, NY), and JD Banke (Seattle, WA). We want to continue to support the talent within our region, but also share artists from elsewhere to promote more dialog between communities.
To see more, please visit Joe’s website.