On March 11, 2011, an earthquake occurred off the north-east coast of Japan, causing a tsunami which devastated much of the Tōhoku region. Kobaslija, whose wife is Japanese, was immediately struck by the devastation and arranged to visit the town of Kesennuma in the Miyagi Prefecture, with the aim of chronicling the aftermath and “to create a true and nuanced portrait of the once vibrant town and its people."
Over the course of multiple trips, funded in part by a Guggenheim Fellowship he was awarded for the project, Kobaslija made numerous studies, which grew into an extensive series of paintings: "One Hundred Views of Kesennuma." The series expresses the kinship he felt with those displaced by the disaster, having experienced the same as his own homeland of Bosnia was overrun by war, and continued his exploration of the idea of ‘place.’ Similar to his paintings of artists’ studios, Kobaslija documented the interiors and cityscapes as a record of the people who once inhabited them, finding beauty amongst the destruction.
Kobaslija explained, “These paintings portray interiors that were ruptured and spewed-out, ravaged by a sudden cataclysm and covered with all-invasive mud and the remnants of a city. What was once a vibrant, scenic community had become a heart-rending tableau of destruction, punctuated by seemingly unending piles of rubble. Trapped underneath, and awaiting the painstaking process of reclamation and rebuilding, lay the remains of everyday life. My paintings depict the devastated homes and everything I observed in their rubble including broken furniture, clothing, children’s toys, and family albums splayed open revealing the last traces of days gone by and of lives wiped out.”
The series was first shown at the gallery in 2012, for the exhibition "One Hundred Views of Kesennuma: Paintings of Japan's Altered Landscape."
Kesennuma Port, March 18, 2011 is included in our current online viewing room.