On the heels of a successful membership campaign, the Akron Art Museum gives us Blurred Lines, a stunning, thought provoking exhibit by renowned artist Jun Kaneko. This exhibition features splashes of color, cracks of mistakes, cultural inspiration, and the question of: who are you?
Jun Kaneko, most notably labeled as a Japanese ceramic artist, is a powerhouse of a creative who has an affinity for promoting civic engagement. The septuagenarian was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942. He studied painting with artist Satoshi Ogawa before coming to Chouinard Institute of Art in 1963. Kaneko has taught at some of the nation’s best art schools, including Rhode Island School of Design and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work is featured in over seventy museum collections and he’s done over sixty public art commissions and designed costumes and sets for three operas. You can read more of his bio here.
His exhibit in Akron ranges from ceramic sculptures of varying sizes to paintings featuring brilliant strikes of color. Repetition, straight lines, and wild colors juxtaposed against black or white dominate the exhibit. It is playful, yet thoughtful exhibit. The artist plays careful attention to color and the emotions that they evoke. Here’s a piece of the museum’s statement:
“Among the most acclaimed artists working in contemporary ceramics today, Jun Kaneko has spent decades pushing the boundaries of ceramics, sculpture and painting, repeatedly blurring the lines that have traditionally separated the world of fine art and craft. Jun Kaneko: Blurred Lines, opening February 17, 2018, presents an array of the artist’s monumental works while providing insight into his thinking and artistic process. Informed by early experiences in a Zen Garden at Ryōan-ji in Kyoto, Japan, Kaneko’s work contains ongoing references to rhythm and pattern and sound and silence. His artworks are often covered with stripes, simple geometric shapes, and spirals and dots, suggesting opposing but complementary forces of light and darkness, mass and space and present and past.”
Read the rest here.
In one room, the museum’s curators placed egg-ish shaped ceramic pieces that featured cracks filled with gold using the Japanese art of pottery repair, Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”). This technique is tied with a philosophy that “illuminates the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something in disguise.” I also think of this as a nice tie-in to the museum’s work with Artist Rachel Sussman, who used this same technique on the museum’s floor last November as part of the Alchemy: Transformations in Gold exhibition.
Kaneko’s work prompts viewers to move within the negative space that his pieces create, developing a relationship unique to art beyond the 3D instillation/sculpture sphere. Care is taken to each piece and the detail is awe-inspiring. The piece above is an approximately 65-foot canvas featuring a gradient of lines shifting from yellow to red, but using the colors of the rainbow to do so. In examining this piece, views are able to see that Kaneko dripped paint on the top and bottom of the canvas to create the lines. His style of work falls perfectly in line with the Akron Art Museum and their quest to connect art to all residents regardless of age, race, and socio-economic status as well as engage them in unique ways.
To that end, in November of 2017, the Akron Art Museum signed up approximately 15,000 new members for free in a single day. This show-stopping spin of Giving Tuesday was, in part, thanks to the generous donations by the John S. and James L. Foundation, as well as the J.M. Smucker Company.
Over the last several years, the museum has ingraining itself deeper into the community by developing projects and programs that explore what art is and how you can perceive it. For example, the museum created a Living with Art exhibit in which they partnered with Hazel Tree Design Studio (formerly Hazel Tree Interiors) to create spaces like living rooms where people can imagine interacting with art in their home. From there they moved to Inside|Out, an exhibit placing reproductions of the museum’s pieces in the area neighborhoods, rotating every quarter or so. This aligned with the opening of the Bud & Susie Rogers Garden, which is becoming a living room space of sorts in Downtown Akron, and this year we’ve reach another transformational point with the Akron Art Library. This art library is a partnership between the museum and the Akron-Summit County Public Library in which residents can borrow local art to be placed in their own home for weeks at a time. Look for more information about that in a later blog post.
Overall, this exhibit stands out in my mind as one of the museum’s best that I’ve had the opportunity to view. Not only is it unique by way of compelling medium/positioning, but it is also the first that I know of that CEO Mark Masuoka curated himself. Masuoka drew upon his 35-year relationship with the artist to bring this collection to the area and I am thankful for it.
If you get a chance, please go check it out. Blurred Lines will be up through June 3rd.
Thank you for reading,