San Francisco

Jonathan Runcio: Glass in the Garden at Romer Young

From our San Francisco Bay Area partner Art Practical, today we bring you a review of Glass in the Garden, Jonathan Runcio‘s current solo show at Romer Young Gallery. Author Danica Willard Sachs explains that Runcio’s work “dismantles the architecture of the city, peeling back the glossy finish to show the viewer the raw substrate.” This article was originally published on November 25, 2013.

Jonathan Runcio. Glass in the Garden, 2013; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

Jonathan Runcio. Glass in the Garden, 2013; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.

In his latest exhibition, Jonathan Runcio gives the viewer fragmented artifacts from the urban landscape: cement, steel, enamel, and glass. Here, Runcio returns to many of the themes of his earlier work—in particular, an interest in exploring the materials of the urban environment. In Glass in the Garden, Runcio pairs these materials with images sourced from Arts & Architecture magazine’s pioneering mid-century experiments in residential home design: the Case Study Houses.

Standing aloof in one corner of the gallery, Runcio’s Cast-Off Lamp 02 (2013), a stark approximation of a streetlight with a slim brass post and exposed industrial bulb, anchors the exhibition firmly in the streetscape. Untitled (Message) (2013) features a sheet of tarnished brass screen printed with overlapping and ultimately unrecognizable images of the Case Study Houses. Crumpled and discarded on the floor like rubbish, the sculpture underscores the end of a certain kind of built landscape. The effect of the overall installation of the artist’s sculptures plays doubly: Runcio has either positioned viewers amid the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic landscape, or he has placed us in the formative stages of new construction.

A similar level of tension plays out in the individual pieces themselves, with the artist variously pairing angular, highly engineered pieces of glass, mirror, and steel with raw hunks of concrete. For example, in Untitled (2013), the artist attached a steel armature painted with white enamel to a concrete base. While the piece is interesting enough on its own—in the way it marks the reduction of architectural elements to their most basic level—the silhouette of the sculpture also evokes a skeleton of a building, emphasizing precariousness between the states of construction and decay.

In a limited-edition artist’s book produced in conjunction with the show, Runcio borrows a page from Ghosts, a novel by César Aira about an unfinished Buenos Aires high-rise inhabited by ghosts covered in concrete dust. Similarly, Runcio’s artworks play out for the viewer as concrete shades, remnants that remark on a changing urban landscape. Ultimately, the artist’s work in Glass in the Garden carefully dismantles the architecture of the city, peeling back the glossy finish to show the viewer the raw substrate in gray, black, and cobalt.

Glass in the Garden is on view at Romer Young Gallery through December 14, 2013.

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