Of the many galleries participating in Photolucida, Portland's monthlong photography showcase, PDX Contemporary Art's three-person show is the most effective. Elegantly and understatedly, it proves just how ungrounded the fine-art establishment's fears were back in the 1800s, when the burgeoning practice of photography was considered a threat to painting and drawing.
The artists in PDX's exhibition demonstrate the ways in which photography has moved beyond literal depiction to conjure visions ripe with abstract, political and symbolic implications. Take Evan La Londe's untitled series, which shows a progression of seven images that would be the envy of any minimalist painter. From left to right, the prints unfurl a succession of diagonal lines, first as mere suggestions of contour upon a blazing white background, then ever so gradually darkening until, in the final image, the diagonals are barely discernible against a field of inky black. As it turns out, these immaculate abstractions aren't abstract at all: The lines are actually window blinds photographed at an angle. With a combination of reserve and virtuosity, La Londe has transubstantiated a quotidian object into an etude on geometry and grayscale.
In the work of Amjad Faur, the photographer integrates Middle-Eastern and European traditions. Following up on traditional depictions of the prophet Muhammad as enveloped by a golden flame, Faur uses varying techniques to alter representations of iconic classical sculptures. In Athena/Aziz, he covers a bust of the Greek goddess in cellophane; in Golgotha/Ma'alot Dafna, he digitally blacks out the head of a miniature statue; and in Good Eye/Samothrace, he pixelates the shadow of the iconic Winged Victory of Samothrace. It's an intriguing cultural and art-historical mix.
Finally, Masao Yamamoto's Kawa=Flow series turns everyday scenes and objects—roads, flowers, dogs, birds—into the stuff of bittersweet memory. By printing the images in an acid-eaten, selectively overexposed style, he evokes a silent film flying through a rickety projector. Weathered-looking, antiquarian and painterly in effect, the prints are heartbreakingly elegiac. Throughout the exhibition, these artists employ diverse techniques and themes to show just how far photography has come from "mere" depictions of reality.
SEE IT: Photolucida is at PDX Contemporary Art, 925 NW Flanders St., 222-0063. Through April 27.