Gallery review: Jun Kaneko's ceramic shapes as canvases

An untitled ceramic sculpture (2012) from Jun Kaneko's exhibition at Locks Gallery.
An untitled ceramic sculpture (2012) from Jun Kaneko's exhibition at Locks Gallery.
Posted: July 08, 2012

The intensely brilliant glazes on Jun Kaneko's recent ceramic dango (rounded form) sculptures bring them more into the realm of painting than ever before.

Kaneko was certainly headed in that direction in 2008, when he had his first exhibition of dangos on Locks Gallery's roof — and when the Opera Company of Philadelphia staged its production of Fidelio featuring his set designs and costumes — but his palette was often black and white and his imagery vacillated between all-over zigzag and dot patterns and arrangements of monochrome blocks. Those works were emphatically monumental, too, like enormous sentinels, as were the ones shown in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building between 2009 and 2010.

By contrast, Kaneko's latest dangos, which are arranged in the first-floor gallery at Locks like so many guests at a opening, suggest he's been looking at abstract expressionist paintings, and possibly even at the works of other artists affiliated with Locks. Kaneko's long drips and occasional splashes call Pat Steir's waterfall paintings to mind immediately, for example, and his grid patterns have more than a little in common with Jennifer Bartlett's.

In addition to his new ceramic works, Kaneko is showing modestly scaled paintings in the same gallery that echo the dangos' glazes (and reinforce the connection of the dangos to painting, although the dangos need no such help) and, on the roof, two enomous cast-bronze sculptures of human heads — one patinaed in large squares of indigo blue and white, the other in black and white — mounted on identical steel tables. They're as inscrutable and self-contained as his dangos, and they also hint at the possibility that the dangos are stand-ins for humans.

Locks Gallery, 600 Washington Square South, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (summer hours). 215-629-1000 or www.locksgallery.com. Through July 27.

Bones and brainwaves

More large heads, in this case enormous laminated foam sculptures of human skulls and their simian "souls" by Joe Meiser, an assistant professor of sculpture and drawing at Bucknell University, can be seen not far from Locks, at James Oliver Gallery.

Meiser's white, wall-mounted sculptures of human skulls paired with simian ones are remarkable not just for their large scale and startling resemblance to real skulls, but for the way they're constructed.

Meiser, who at one time interned as a toy designer at Hasbro, creates three-dimensional forms on the computer, slices the forms digitally, projects them onto styrofoam, then laminates them together. He then carves and abrades them where necessary. A coat of Aqua-Resin over the finished sculpture creates a protective outer shell.

Meiser's preoccupation with life's unanswerable questions — what happens after death, for instance, or, does artificial intelligence have the capability of musing on the significance of its existence? — is fleshed out in a series of photographs, too.

Johnny 5, inspired by the military robot Number 5 who was the central character of the 1986 film Short Circuit — and whose survival of a lightning strike left him forever fearful of being disassembled — has been reimagined in various poignant scenarios in seven digital prints.

The most curious of Meisner's works is his Mobile Transcendence Device, a white, reliquary-like box made of cast plastic and wood and that appears to be fashioned from bones. Attached to the box is a visor fitted with a pulsating light that, if worn, will shift a gallery visitor's brainwaves to the theta state associated with the state of transcendence achieved by deep meditation. There's a hitch, of course — in order to use it, you must lie on the gallery's floor and let the gallery assistant cover you with dirt from your feet to your neck. Thanks anyway!

James Oliver Gallery, 723 Chestnut St., 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 to 8 p.m. Saturdays. 215-923-1242 or www.jamesolivergallery.com . Through Aug. 4.

Up front

Transforming the small space overlooking Race Street in the front of Moore College's Goldie Paley Gallery into a gallery of its own has begun to seem like a better idea than it initially did. That's especially the case with "All Together Now," a show of 15 Philadelphia-area artists whose works are arranged "salon style" in response to the college's new neighbor, the Barnes Foundation, and its re-creations of Albert Barnes' idiosyncratic "wall ensembles."

Look for works by Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala, Anne Seidman, Hiro Sakaguchi, Joy Feasley, Mark Khaisman, Mauro Zamora, Jacque Liu, and others. The show is among the first by gallery director Kaytie Johnson, who came to Moore less than a year ago.

Moore College of Art & Design, 20th Street and the Parkway, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 215-965-4027 or www.thegalleriesatmoore.edu. Through July 28.

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