This article is sponsored by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

When you walk into the front door of Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art on Warwick Boulevard, right away you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. That’s because the museum commissions artists to create pieces for their atrium that are totally unique and site responsive—that’s art speak for “created for and inspired by a specific space.”

The piece on display now—the second in a series of commissioned atrium projects—was created by artist Firelei Báez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and currently lives and works in New York City. Baez was recently awarded the College Art Association’s  2018 Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work for her Bloodlines exhibition, which has shown at galleries and museums around the country including the Andy Warhol Museum.

To See Beyond Its Walls (and access the places that lie beyond). The painting combines a painting of a female figure with what the museum describes as “a reimagined interior of Sans-Souci Palace (1813) in northern Haiti.”

The scale of the painting combined with its bright colors make it a breathtaking marvel. And the piece is rife with symbology that puts divergent cultures in conversation with one another and creates a powerful interchange about oppression and power. As Kemper Museum puts it, “Báez packs the painting and wall with symbols of Latin America, the Caribbean, and America that acknowledge the complex lineage of colonial construct, resistance, and protection. They activate a space beyond the walls (of both the gallery and the palace) to imagine renewed historical and social narratives.” Some of those symbols include black panthers, power fists, and a headdress called a tignon which women of African descent were required by law to wear in Spanish colonial Louisiana as a form of racial oppression.

To See Beyond Its Walls demands an in-person viewing. It will be on view in the Kemper Museum atrium until June of this year, and if you venture there on Thursday, March 1, you will also have a chance to hear the artist who created it speak on a panel held that evening. Full event details below.

See the Painting

Kemper Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Parking and admission are free. You’ll see Firelei Báez’s piece on display in the atrium, and you can also check out the museum’s permanent collection and other ongoing exhibitions, including Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999). 

Where: 4420 Warwick Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri 64111

Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday 10-4, Thursday-Friday 10-9, Saturday-Sunday 10-4, Closed Monday

Admission: Free!

Find out more by visiting their website.

All images © Firelai Báez, courtesy Wendi Norris Gallery