Jun Kaneko was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942. He studied painting with Satoshi Ogawa during his adolescence. He came to the United States in 1963 to continue his studies at Chouinard Institute of Art when his introduction to Fred Marer drew him to sculptural ceramics. He proceeded to study with Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, and Jerry Rothman in California during the time now defined as The Contemporary Ceramics Movement in America. 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.
Based in Omaha since 1986, Jun Kaneko has worked at several experimental studios including European Ceramic Work Center in The Netherlands, Otsuka Omi Ceramic Company in Japan, Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia PA, Bullseye Glass in Portland OR, Acadia Summer Arts Program in Bar Harbor ME, and Aguacate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Over the course of his career he has partnered with industrial facilities to realize large-scale, hand-built sculptures. The first was his 1982-1983 Omaha Project at Omaha Brickworks. Later sculptures include his Fremont Project, completed in 1992-1994, and most recently his Pittsburg Project completed in 2004-2007. Most recently, Jun has been working at the Cuernavaca Raku ceramics studio, experimenting with new glazes and the unpredictability of raku.
Kaneko is increasingly drawn to installations that promote civic interaction. He has completed over fifty public art commissions, including his two three hundred and fifty foot long Tile Walls at Aquarium Station in Boston, MA (1993-2000), a three-story high wall in the Biology library at The University of Connecticut (1997), and a fifty-six foot tall Glass Tower at the center of his Plaza in Lincoln, NE (2014); other large scale permanent installations can be found in Osaka, Japan (1994), at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, KS (2006), in Council Bluffs and Des Moines, IA (2007 and 2013), and at the International Finance Center in Shanghai, China (2012). His artwork appears in numerous international and national solo and group exhibitions annually, and is included in more than seventy museum collections. 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 has designed the sets and costumes for three operas: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (2006), Beethoven’s Fidelio (2008), and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (2012). All three are currently touring in the United States. Opera Omaha recently staged Fidelio in April 2015. The San Francisco Opera recently presented The Magic Flute in November 2015, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. will present his Madame Butterfly in Spring 2016.
In 1998, he and his wife Ree Kaneko formed a non-profit cultural organization in Omaha Nebraska called KANEKO that explores and encourages the process of creativity. KANEKO is headquartered in landmark, turn-of-the-century warehouses in the Old Market District of Omaha, Nebraska.