Jun Kaneko

(b. 1942)

About The Artist


Painting during the day and attending school at night, Jun Kaneko completed his high school degree at the urging of his painting teacher, Satoshi Ogawa. By the early 1960s however, Kaneko was exhausted, so exhausted that he had no desire to continue his studies in the rigid Japanese education system. His parents, however, had no connections outside of Japan. Fortunately, Ogawa’s friend in Los Angeles, the sculptor Jerry Rothman, agreed to help the young painter find his way in America. In 1963 Kaneko moved to the United States and stayed with friends of Rothman's who collected ceramics-thus Kaneko was introduced to the medium he would master.

This initial exposure to ceramics instilled a desire to expand his abilities beyond painting, and after a year of drawing, printmaking, and painting at Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts) under Emerson Woelffer, he asked Jerry Rothman for a ceramics apprenticeship at his Long Beach studio. In the summer of 1964, Kaneko occupied a small corner of Rothman’s studio, just enough space for his bed and his first ceramic works. Kaneko describes his nascent pieces: “You know, that’s the easiest, just pound it flat and paint on it a painting. I’m sort of used to it, so I was just making a canvas out of clay.” Impressed by his work, Rothman later sent a few of his pieces to a national ceramics competition. Between 1965-1970, Kaneko exclusively studied ceramics at Chouinard, the University of California, Berkeley under Peter Voulkos, and Claremont Graduate School under Paul Soldner. He was a part of then what would be called the California Clay Movement. The following decade, Kaneko taught at some of the nation’s leading art schools, including Scripps College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Kaneko’s early ceramics are bold and playful, in blues and yellows. The looser forms contrast with Kaneko’s larger works of continuous pattern and immense beauty, yet his figural simplicity and painterly strokes foreshadow his later masterpieces. He is best known for monumental ceramic "dango" (Japanese for "dumpling") sculptures. They are like large-scale, rounded, and inflated three-dimensional canvases for Kaneko's graphic designs.

He has realized numerous public art commissions in the United States and Japan and is the recipient of national, state and organization fellowships. Kaneko holds honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska, the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, and the Royal College of Art in London. Jun Kaneko lives and works in Omaha with his wife. They have a nonprofit cultural organization–KANEKO–devoted to the exploration of creativity.


"Biography: Jun Kaneko." Jun Kaneko Studio, n.d. Web. 21 June 2015.
Eckert, Jessica. "Featured Artist: Jun Kaneko." Ceramics Today. Ceramics Today, n.d. Web. 21 June 2015.
Des Marais, Paul. "Just In: Jun Kaneko Ceramics." LAMA/Los Angeles Modern Auctions. Los Angeles Modern Auctions, 16 July 2012. Web. 21 June 2015.
McInnes, Mary Drach. “Oral History Interview with Jun Kaneko.” Archives of American Art. Archives of American Art, 2015. Web. 15 July 2012. In Paul Des Marais, "Just In: Jun Kaneko Ceramics." LAMA/Los Angeles Modern Auctions. Los Angeles Modern Auctions, 16 July 2012. Web. 21 June 2015.