LAMA BLOG

Jun Kaneko: Dualities in Clay

May 2, 2016

The work of ceramic artist Jun Kaneko (b. 1942) embodies two distinct sensibilities: there is the spirituality inherent in the ancient pottery traditions of his native Japan, and then there are the modernist impulses born of his studies under the masters of the California Clay Movement in the 1960s. Kaneko’s forms are simple, but his scales are monolithic. Treating surface as a three-dimensional canvas for geometric abstraction, a tension emerges in Kaneko’s work between fixed, physical presence and dynamic, writhing surface. “Kaneko’s ceramic works are an amazing synthesis of painting and sculpture,” Peter Voulkos once said. “His works are enigmatic and elusive, simultaneously restrained and powerful, Eastern and Western, static and alive, intellectual and playful, technical and innovative.”

Lot 99, Jun Kaneko, Untitled (Dango) (1999)
Lot 99, Jun Kaneko, Untitled (Dango) (1999)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

In Japan, Kaneko studied drawing and painting from adolescence into young adulthood before moving to Los Angeles in 1963 to continue his education at the Chouinard Art Institute. Soon after arriving, he befriended the legendary ceramics collectors Fred and Mary Marer. Eventually he changed artistic mediums, going on to study with such luminaries in the world of ceramics as Peter Voulkos and Paul Soldner. From the start of his career, Kaneko has preferred oversized formats, which he believes foster a deeper engagement with the viewer. His signature form, a series he calls Dango—Japanese for “dumpling”—can be as large as ten feet tall. Their making requires both patience and virtuosic technical prowess. Kaneko has estimated that only two in ten works survive the laborious building, drying, and firing process without cracking or exploding.

Lot 100, Jun Kaneko, Untitled (Dango) (1999)
Lot 100, Jun Kaneko, Untitled (Dango) (1999)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Yet when successful, Kaneko realizes some of the most profound work in contemporary art. According to Voulkos, his “accomplishments are unrivaled in the field of ceramic art. His technical achievements alone have redefined the possibilities the medium has to offer.”

McInnes, Mary Drach. “Oral History Interview with Jun Kaneko.” Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institute, 2005. Web. “Jun Kaneko.” Collections. University of Iowa Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Lot Information:

Lot 99
Jun Kaneko
Untitled (Dango)
1999
Painted and glazed stoneware
Signed and dated to the underside
LAMA would like to thank the Jun Kaneko Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
45″ x 24″ x 18″

Provenance: William Traver Gallery, Seattle, Washington; Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above, 2000)

Estimate: $15,000–$20,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 100
Jun Kaneko
Untitled (Dango)
1999
Painted and glazed stoneware
LAMA would like to thank the Jun Kaneko Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
34.5″ x 35″ x 11″
Provenance: William Traver Gallery, Seattle, Washington; Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above, 2000)

Estimate: $8,000–$12,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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