Friday, July 25, 2008

They might be giants

Sculptor Jun Kaneko is a master of ceramics

Express Staff Writer

Jun Kaneko glazes a head for the New York City Parks Public Art Program that features an exhibition of his sculptures on the Park Avenue Malls through November, 2008. Photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

Based in Omaha, Neb., Japanese ceramic artist Jun Kaneko is internationally known for his massive kilns, "dangos," the Japanese word for dumpling and enormous heads—all finished in stunning glazes.

"His glazes are very geometric and painterly," said Gail Severn owner of the Gail Severn Gallery, which is currently exhibiting Kaneko's work. "He does not tell people about the chemical process he uses."

Kaneko will build his pieces in his kiln and one individual piece can take nine months to create.

"To do pieces of this size, it is a science," Severn said. "Kaneko has had a profound impact on art and is considered a living legend."

Kaneko's exhibition history spans over 40 years and is included in many public collections. Collections include: the De Young Museum, Detroit Institute of Art, San Francisco Museum of Fine Art, Honolulu Academy of Art, Oakland Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Wakayama Museum of Modern Art, The National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan, and The Olympic Museum of Ceramic Sculpture in Athens, Greece.

In the New York Times, Jan. 14, 2007, article, "Giants of the Heartland," by Michael Kimmelman, Kaneko explained his ideas of space and form as an art experience not just for viewing.

"I like the idea of ambient space, the challenge of it," he said. "People going through a plaza or a convention center may not be conscious of my pieces and may not be interested in art, but in the end they are experiencing it. And each public project has its own needs, its own 'ma,' " he said, ma meaning "spirit," a Shinto idea, which applies, he said, also to the spaces around, and in between, the sculptures.

Kaneko's design aesthetic and ideas have won him the rights to design the costumes, the set and the lighting for "Madame Butterfly." He does work with other mediums including bronze, and he has also created a series of ceramic wall slabs and platters.

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