Untitled, 1996. Hand-built, glazed ceramics and polished and flame-treated granite, 6 x 28 x 25 ft. Project for Aichi Prefecture, government building, Nagoya, Japan.

Jun Kaneko: Scale and Topography

Imagine looking northwest, through the polarized glass expanse of the entryway of the Phillip Johnson-designed Art Museum of South Texas into the gray light of a winter morning in early 1985. There, at the end of a 10,000-square-foot sidewalk separating the entrance stairs of the museum from the park road, three huge, weighty objects, adorned with varied patterns of blues, yellows, reds, and blacks and standing as tall as a professional basketball player, interrupt the vast flatness of the immediate horizon of the coastal plain around Corpus Christi. These imposing 5.5-ton ceramic dangos (looking like massive loaves of bread) are strapped neatly and securely to the bed of a 45-foot air-ride, low-boy trailer pulled by a black Ace Trucking Company tractor. And there, standing on the sidewalk, halfway between the trailer and the white museum building, dwarfed by the truck, which is in turn dwarfed by the dangos, is a man. Dressed in loose black pants and a loose black jacket striped sparingly with bright colors, with flowing black hair, Japanese sandals on his feet, and a hand-printed black and white canvas bag in his hand is the artist Jun Kaneko. These dangos, each taller than either of us, are his work.

In preparation for this first project with Kaneko, I had familiarized myself with his work by reviewing slides and photographs, reading articles about this unique work, and discussing directly with the artist the size of the individual pieces in order to arrange for their transportation and installation. But I was not adequately prepared. I had no actual sense of the size or a true understanding of the relative scale of the dangos (Japanese for “rounded form”) and corresponding mattress-size slabs until I stood next to them neatly situated on the trailer in front of me. This was my introduction to the scale of Kaneko’s work.