13 Reeves Road, Pakuranga
December 5, 2020–February 7, 2021
For her solo exhibition “Obaachan during the lockdown, Wahiawā, Hawai’i,” Claudia Kogachi responds to the complex social conditions of a Covid-impacted world with a trio of large, tufted rugs. In each work, Kogachi depicts her obaachan (grandmother) absorbed in some everyday task: rolling musubi (spam sushi), cleaning out the freezer, and barbecuing kalbi (Korean short ribs). Rather than make a traditional portrait of her obaachan, or reproduce the square format of their daily Skype calls, Kogachi models her rugs after photographs taken when the two were last able to meet in the flesh, before Covid-related border restrictions were rolled out. The tapestries are cozy and sweetly specific—obaachan’s hair in pink rollers as she assembles the musubi, an orange power cord snaking between the barbecue, spatula, and bucket of marinating ribs.
The intimacy of these snapshot-like compositions is heightened by the domestic, tactile qualities of tufted rugs, and by the gallery’s invitation to stroke them, contact that allows for an even greater appreciation of their varied textures. Fibers are left long in some places, so that a large knife and a slab of musubi are humorously woolly, while other panels are trimmed so short they feel like worn carpet. The choice of such a labor-intensive medium seems to echo the rise in popularity of crafts and slow forms of making during the pandemic. Her rugs work not so much to remind us of the importance of time physically spent with loved ones, but to convey the homespun warmth that such casual proximity entailed.