JB Blunk (1926 – 2002) was born in Ottawa, Kansas. In 1951, he was drafted into the Korean War and stationed in Japan. After a chance encounter with sculptor Isamu Noguchi in a mingei (craft) shop Blunk was introduced to famed potter Rosanjin Kitaoji and Toyo Kaneshige, whom he later apprenticed with. After moving to Northern California in 1958, he met, through Noguchi, the Surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford, who encouraged Blunk’s creative development and invited him to build his own home and studio. Assembled from salvaged materials, Blunk made everything from the doors to the ceramic bowls and cups used for eating and drinking.
He began working with wood in the early 1960s, first making stools and small tables and eventually earning commissions for large-scale wood environments and public works. Throughout his career, he moved seamlessly between different disciplines and media: ceramics, jewelry, painting, weaving, furniture and sculpture. For an exhibition of Blunk’s work in 1981, Noguchi aptly described the artist’s creative process: ‘I like to think that the courage and independence JB has shown is typically Californian, or at least Western, with a continent between to be free from the categories that are called art. Here the links seem to me more to the open sky and spaces, and the far reaches of time from where comes the burled stumps of those great trees.’
His work has exhibited internationally in Japan, London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at Kasmin Gallery in New York and Blum & Poe in Tokyo. His work is included in the collections of the Oakland Museum of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Arts and Design, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and numerous private collections.