Jonathan Runcio is an artist apparently comfortable in any number of media. When I first encountered him in 2008, he was screen printing and spray painting architectural patterns on plexi-glass, which he then bent into angular sculptures that mirrored the surface graphics -- geometric paintings twisted into geometric sculptures. Next he began making delicate, floating wooden structures painted silver and so refined, their seams so well hidden, they looked like welded metal. Then concrete blocks turned up, their sides impossibly stenciled with these same patterns, and inevitably blueprints appeared.
Why inevitably? Because Runcio's subject is the built environment. He is a "street" artist. Visit San Francisco's Romer Young Gallery and see what appears to be a small, but ever-so-intentionally placed collection of seemingly minimalist sculptures. (They are actually postmodern collages.) Check out the accompanying riso print booklet, and you will see the inspiration for these shapes revealed. Untitled (Impression), the metallic sculpture that hangs in the middle of the room, is the copy of a pattern Runcio found embedded in the sidewalk. Other shapes come from inlays on garage doors or particular geometric confluences of gates or walkway railings. Runcio's work is from the street and of the street, he employs stencils, spray paint, screen printing -- all forms that appear in the public sphere for public address -- to address the public spaces we encounter daily. He is awake to those lingering elements of modernist flourish that haunt the built environment. There is sculpture everywhere. Runcio appropriates it, bends it to his formidable will and re-presents it in an increasingly refined form, in what turns out to be an increasingly refined environment -- the art gallery (but that's a Bay Area-specific discussion for another day).
Jonathan Runcio, Untitled (Impression), 2013.
If you are at all familiar with Runcio's process, you can be sure that he has already moved beyond the objects he is presenting today. The ideas behind the work are quickly evolving and, should he introduce a material we haven't seen before -- in Glass in the Garden the new substance is mirror (to further implicate the viewer's place in space?) -- you can rest assured that any rawness, any difficulty or lack of familiarity with the medium will have disappeared the next time you encounter it. Runcio's facility with materials is intimidating.
Jonathan Runcio, Glass in the Garden installation shot, 2013.
There are roughly a half dozen pieces in this show, but they are so intelligently placed that the whole room has become activated. Not only do you see the work, but you must necessarily become tuned in to where and how it sits, how the sidewalk led you to the door and what that looked like. How the windows interact with the shapes in the sculptures that sit in front of them, how the light and shadows fall. One piece in particular, an untitled concrete and steel sculpture that stands about 30 inches tall and sits five feet in from the gallery's front door, calls attention to itself by first blocking your progress into the space -- or redirecting it the way walkways and turnstiles do. Then you notice the floor, a rhombus has been worn or stained into the concrete and it looks like it could be an incongruous shadow cast by the sculpture or a shape purposely placed there by the artist to extend the dimensions of his work. Turns out the shape was there before the sculpture was placed, inspiring the placement and thus incorporating the whole floor into the work.
For being so sparse, Glass in the Garden is surprisingly full of intersections -- hard-edged, urban graphics meet pliable materials, painting meets sculpture, delicate refinement meets raw concrete, inside meets outside -- the art completes a circuit, making a map back to the world outside the gallery. How is it possible to be so sensitive to the environment? And now that I have experienced the world in this way, how can I look at commonplace details on the street and not see art everywhere?
Jonathan Runcio's Glass in the Garden is at Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco through December 14, 2013. For more information visit romeryounggallery.com.
All images courtesy Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco.