Jun Kaneko b. 1942

Born and raised in Japan, Jun Kaneko arrived in Los Angeles in 1963 as an aspiring painter. He first stayed at the home of collector Fred Marer, where he was exposed to the then revolutionary work of Peter Voulkos, Ken Price, John Mason, and others. Kaneko was immediately drawn to ceramics and began studying the medium and would go on to apprentice with Voulkos and other artists in the California Clay Movement.

Kaneko developed a unique style that explores the interrelationship between space, volume, color, and pattern, and is particularly well-known for his monumental works which often push the technical boundaries of ceramics. Perhaps his most famous form, the “dango” (Japanese for “dumpling”), are enormous, rounded monoliths that can reach upwards of eleven feet tall. In addition to painting, sculpture, and ceramics, Kaneko has realized many installations and public commissions, including the Phoenix Airport, a station for the Boston Subway, the Detroit People Mover, and the Waikiki Aquarium.

Kaneko primarily works out of his studio in Omaha, Nebraska and has taught at many of the leading art schools in the country, among them Scripps College, Rhode Island School of Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He is also the co-founder of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and in 1998 he and his wife, Ree, founded KANEKO, a non-profit cultural organization in Omaha. His work can be found in many public collections worldwide, including Arabia Museum, Helsinki; Detroit Institute of Arts; Los Angeles County Art Museum; Museum of Art and Design, NY; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum and Smithsonian American Art Museum.

For more about Jun Kaneko’s story, listen to this 2005 oral history interview from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

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