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A scene from Fidelio, directed by Robert Driver and designed by Jun Kaneko, as presented by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, October 2008
Photo by Kelly & Massa Photography
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by Donald Kuspit

Jun Kaneko is known for his "dango" sculptures -- ceramic sculptures, sometimes heads, their eyes closed in meditation, sometimes structures that could function as vessels, except that they have no opening. All are monumentally grand -- usually figure-sized -- and the latter have vivid, decorative surfaces. Last month saw a wonderful display of the vessel-like shapes on the roof of the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia. Flanked by modern skyscrapers, they look boldly archaic. They have full, rounded bodies, and their varied surfaces suggest that they have different personalities: they seem uncannily human, especially next to the impersonal structures of the boxy skyscrapers. They have character, certainly compared to the featureless buildings. Hermetically sealed, they seem to hide a mystery, while the glass skyscrapers have nothing to hide: one can see right through them, in more ways than one. The sculptures are as abstract as the skyscrapers, but their geometry is more subtle, their material natural rather than artificial, and they are hand-crafted and individualized rather than mass produced and collective in import.