A Bit of Perspective on the Next Exhibit, Please

Curious about the next exhibit in the Morikami’s galleries? Read on…

Fusing elements of abstract expressionist painting with the textural nature of fabrics and the ruggedness of raw clay, Jun Kaneko is a prolific artist who contributed to one, if not the, most innovative movement in the history of American ceramic art.

From December 22 through March 7, the exhibit, Jun Kaneko, Ceramic Sculptures, Paintings and Drawings, will feature 50 works by Kaneko, an energetic contemporary artist known for his seven-foot-tall, half-ton “Dangos,” monolithic ceramic sculptures endearingly named for Kaneko’s favorite childhood treat: warm, sweet dumplings skewered on stick. Yes, seven-foot-tall, half ton pieces of hollow ceramic! One of the smallest pieces is 1,800 pounds. The man dreamt big!

When Susanna Brooks Lavallee, Curator of Japanese Art at The Morikami, answers what she enjoys most about the museum’s next exhibit, she talks about the “perfect storm” of time, the serendipitous environment and artistic influences that gave the world Jun Kaneko. What she appreciates most about Kaneko’s work is that “it transcends mediums – it is at once a drawing, a painting that uses clay as its canvas, and a sculpture. His work is intelligent, thought-provoking, and most of all engaging.”

When Jun Kaneko arrived in the United States from Japan in 1963, at the tender age of 17, he brought with him a skillful, energetic painting style and an eagerness to develop his artistic impulses more freely. With the aid of divine intervention and the support of his painting teacher in Japan, Kaneko was welcomed with open arms into the supportive, nurturing home of Fred and Mary Marer, avid collectors of a fresh, new style of contemporary ceramics being made by a group of intellectual potters in southern California. In the 1960s, ceramics was the number one industry in the state of California, and the Marers were perhaps the most devoted and passionate supporters of this experimental group of avant-garde potters that produced some of the most innovative and important ceramics of the era.

Kaneko’s arrival in California,  which led to his fortuitous acquaintance with the Marers, who introduced the young painter to the great ceramic movers and shakers of the time – Peter Voulkos and Paul Sondern among others – exemplifies the notion of “being at the right place at the right time.”

Would of any of the circumstances played out differently, Kaneko’s magnificent and magical clay works might never have been realized? Brooks Lavallee adds that Kaneko’s contributions to ceramics is not limited to the United States, but extends also to Japan, where his work plays an important role in the study and development of new kilns and clay methods and in the shaping and formation of contemporary Japanese ceramics as a whole.

Take a peek at some preview images, then stop by The Morikami and see up close!

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5 thoughts on “A Bit of Perspective on the Next Exhibit, Please

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Bit of Perspective on the Next Exhibit, Please « More Morikami… -- Topsy.com

  2. I am not familiar with the work of Wenda Gu?

    After you visit the Morikami, If you are interested in seeing more large sculptures by contemporary Japanese artists this season, and live in or plan to visit the south Florida area, I would suggest you visit the Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Miami. The Fairchild is currently featuring large, bold, colorful sculptural works by Yayoi Kusama, interspersed throughout their gardens.

    I hope you will consider visiting both in January. It’s a wonderful opportunity to view the work of two outstanding sculptors and creative visionaries, in two remarkable settings!

  3. Thank you for the nice essay about Jun. I have one potential correction: I believe the Marer’s introduce him to Peter Voulkos and Paul Soldner both of whom he subsequently studied with.

    He also makes numerous smaller scale sculptural pieces and thinks often about a concept he identifies as spiritual scale, which might be described as when the viewer’s objective sense of an object’s physical scale is replaced by the scale of its presence.

  4. Thank you for your comment. Yes, it is my understanding that Fred Marer gave Peter Voulkos Kaneko’s portfolio in 1966, introducing the two potters. It was at this time also that Kaneko became one of Voulkos’ assistants.

    I absolutely love Kaneko’s “chunks” and “small heavies,” his smaller clay pieces most of all. It is in doing these that I feel he really explores and expresses the relationships between artist, painting and clay and line, space, pattern, texture, and color. We have some lovely examples at The Morikami. The drawings are incredible!

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