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January 9th, 2008 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Mark Rupert at Quality Pictures

Photographer Mark Rupert explores the midpoint between city and nature.

     
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Mark Rupert’s Triple Threat

Weird, intriguing creatures dwell in the estuary, the neither-here-nor-there zone where rivers flow into the sea, freshwater mingles with salt, and alligators swim side-by-side with sharks. Wherever two polar elements intersect—geographically, politically, socially, sexually—there are bound to be amphibious types, independents, double agents and switch hitters who thrive in the cross currents where worlds collide. Photographer Mark Rupert explores a terrestrial kind of estuary, the buffer where the city ends and the country begins, in his subtle, disturbing show, Borderlands , at Quality Pictures . Head of the photography department at Oregon College of Art&Craft, Rupert shot these medium-format photos within a 50-mile radius of Portland, scouting out elusive locations neither fully urban nor fully rural. These are the sorts of spots happened upon by the two lead characters in Jon Raymond’s short story “Old Joy,” as they overnight en route to Bagby Hot Springs: Trash, abandoned camp sites and discarded furniture show evidence of human intrusion into pristine nature. This is not the domain of the naturalist; this is the domain of the redneck; this is not harmony with nature, but desecration of it. In works such as Triple Threat , Rupert shows the target-practice bulls-eyes and mannequins with which hunters, gun aficionados and paintball geeks turn placid meadows into firing ranges. The photographs, mostly wide shots, are impeccably composed, and while they could benefit from higher contrast and more intense saturation, they capture their subject matter with an uneasy mix of realism and poetry. 916 NW Hoyt St., 227-5060. Closes Feb. 2.

At Pulliam Deffenbaugh , Seattle sculptor Peter Millett channels Brancusi in abstract forms such as Post and Yves Klein in the cobalt Blue Post . His most visually arresting works, however, are the wall-mounted pieces whose jutting contours challenge distinctions between painting and sculpture. Millett has fun with titles; his Blue Butt is named after the provocative shadows the work casts. Also at Pulliam Deffenbaugh this month, Kristen Timken starts with details from landscape photographs, then zooms in so closely that the finished prints often read as pure abstraction. Unfortunately, they suffer from a chromatic and compositional banality that leaves the works arid and unsatisfying. 929 NW Flanders St., 228-6665. Closes Feb. 2.

 
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