Elevation: Kaneko and Contemporary Ceramics is on view at Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Detroit
September 15 – December 9, 2023
The Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University (WSU), is pleased to present Elevation: Kaneko and Contemporary Ceramics.
Elevation: Kaneko and Contemporary Ceramics honors artist Jun Kaneko and his impact on the field of ceramics as he pushes the medium conceptually and technically, expanding the scale of ceramics into the sculptural realm, creating works “to look up to.” This exhibition aims to unpack this phrase, partnering Kaneko’s ceramics with artists whose work reaches new conceptual heights. The works on view explore identity and culture to venerate the lived experience of persons who have not historically been celebrated in this craft-turned-fine-arts arena. Additionally, Elevation includes artists whose materiality expands the use of clay beyond Western conventions bringing together objects to look up to for their reverence of varied ways of life and modes of making, stemming from clay as a cross-cultural, communicative medium.
This exhibition was curated by Jessika Edgar, Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator of Ceramics, WSU and Kat Goffnett, Assistant Curator of Collections, Cranbrook Art Museum, and features work by the following artists: Jun Kaneko, Renata Cassiano Alvarez, Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Ashwini Bhat, Magdolene Dykstra, Adebunmi Gbadebo, Sharbani Das Gupta, Kahlil Robert Irving, Michiko Murakami, Joey Quiñones, and Patrice Renee Washington.
Across Jun Kaneko’s decades-long practice working with ceramics, he has demonstrated the ability to work deftly across various scales, from the intimate to the monumental. From his youth when he studied painting to his introduction to American ceramics, Kaneko has consistently elevated his chosen medium expanding its parameters beyond traditional craft. His practice has left an indelible mark on the field as he can be counted in the lineage of artists working in the 20th century, transforming clay from a functional medium to an expressive tool used to create fine art.
In the 1960s the burgeoning artist came from Japan to the United States to expand his material palette, studying sculptural ceramics under innovators like Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, and Jerry Rothman. Kaneko began accepting teaching appointments in the early 1970s, including a turn as Artist-in-Residence at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan from 1979 through 1986. After Cranbrook, Kaneko re-dedicated himself to his practice and opened a studio in Omaha, Nebraska, where he works to this day.
In describing the impulse to work on a more grandiose scale in series such as his Dangos, Kaneko has stated that he wanted to create works “to look up to.” Elevation: Kaneko and Contemporary Ceramics aims to unpack this phrase beyond its implication of heightened dimensions, partnering Kaneko’s ceramics with artists whose work reaches new conceptual heights, using clay as a metaphor to connect with their cultural heritage. The ceramicists included in this group exhibition, including Kaneko, use clay as a medium to explore identity and culture, from the diasporic experience to imagined futures, often hedging multiple modes of being, to venerate the lived experience of persons who have not historically been celebrated in this craft-turned-fine-arts arena.
While these artists’ ways of making vary, a connecting thread in their material quality expands the use of clay beyond Western conventions exemplified in the art historical canon. Through their use of this historied media partnered with other, non-traditional materials of personal or cultural significance, the artists in this exhibition utilize ceramics to not only elevate conceptual understanding of the human experience but expand material conventions through an anthropological understanding of history and culture. Elevation: Kaneko and Contemporary Ceramics brings together objects to look up to for their reverence of varied ways of life and modes of making, stemming from clay as a cross-cultural, communicative medium.
Text by Jessika Edgar, Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator of Ceramics, WSU; Kat Goffnett, Assistant Curator of Collections, Cranbrook Art Museum
Elaine L. Jacob Gallery
Wayne State Galleries
147 Art Building, 5400 Gullen Mall
Detroit, MI 48202
Photos courtesy of Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University