Jun Kaneko’s most recognized sculptural form is the boldly glazed, monumental dango [Ancient Stone Maker]. An enormous, rounded monolith, the dango presents visual pleasure and straightforward formal delight. As the distinguished philosopher and critic Arthur C. Danto has noted, “They communicate instantaneously their friendly and reconciling assurances, and wear the real world as well as the brilliant coverings that Kaneko has given them.”
When Kaneko first arrived in Los Angeles from Japan in 1963, he stayed at the home of legendary collector Fred Marer. An aspiring young painter, Kaneko was exposed to a comprehensive collection of revolutionary work by ceramic artists such as John Mason, Peter Voulkos, Jerry Rothman and Ken Price.The portentous encounter with those artists’ work, now four decades old, was a formative experience. “Once I saw all of this,” Kaneko has said, “it was impossible not to be interested in ceramics.”
Jun Kaneko, born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942, has consistently followed his own path and continually experimented with the technical aspects of the ceramic medium. His enormous dango forms, which range as high as eleven feet, challenge the physical limitations of the material and the firing process. Also, in his work at the European Ceramics Work Center, he has succeeded in applying extraordinary glaze color to ceramic tile and slabs, boldly painting in a direct and graphic manner.
Kaneko’s innate architectural abilities figure prominently throughout his work and his installations. Early in his career, the artist spent over three years building a compound of structures, including a studio, near Nagura, Japan. He still maintains an active interest in building, and is currently working on a large-scale project in Omaha, Nebraska. As Kaneko wrote in 1996, “Oftentimes I am asked why I make such large-scale work. In making any object, we cannot escape the problems of scale. I believe each form has one right scale. Whether I’m making a large or small object, in the end I hope it will make sense to have that particular scale and form together and that it will give off enough visual energy to shake the air around it.”
The artist’s sense of spatial organization has afforded him the opportunity to realize several public sculpture commissions, including the Phoenix Airport, a station for the Boston Subway, the Detroit People Mover, the Waikiki Aquarium and over a dozen others. These are in addition to his impressive list of works in major museum collections, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Shigaraki Museum, and thirty others.