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Choose your dates:

  1. Thursday, July 18, 2024

  2. Friday, July 19, 2024


Refuge: Art in The Savoy

  • Ellen Kooi (Dutch), Hindeloopen – IJsdame, 1997. Enduraflex prints on Plexiglas.

  • Ellen Kooi (Dutch), Katwijk - bomen, 2005 Ed. 3/10. Enduraflex print mounted on plexiglass.

  • Ellen Kooi (Dutch), Lissabon – border, 2007. Fuji Crystal Archive on Plexiglas.

  • Anthony Goicolea (American), Jettisoned, 2009. Chromogenic print on Dibond with non-glare UV Plexiglass.

About the Exhibition

Refuge, the inaugural exhibition at 21c Kansas City, explores the contemporary human condition through depictions of seeking, needing, and creating shelter. From representations of sea and landscapes to images of architecture real and fantastical, the selection of works installed in The Savoy dining room illuminates global narratives of travel and migration both imagined and experienced.

Throughout the exhibition, water serves as a potent symbol of desire and danger, connection and isolation. The white-capped waves depicted in Antonio Cazorla’s painting, Atlantic, beckon the viewer toward an alluring blue horizon, while rising banks in photographs by Ellen Kooi hint at imminent danger and the potential necessity for escape. The faces of the men, women, and children featured in Yasser Piña Peña’s Ejercicio Repasoare photographed as if under water or ice, appearing suspended behind a bubbling, transparent veil. The series’ title indicates that they are in fact under scrutiny, floating in an Ejercicio Repaso—“a review exercise.” A common practice under authoritarian regimes like Cuba, “review exercises” may include celebratory military parades, or the everyday surveillance to which citizens may be subjected. Living conditions on the island nation are documented in Michael Eastman’s Cuban Interior series,which depicts the crumbling buildings of Cuba’s former elite, now abandoned or owned by a government without resources to maintain infrastructure.

Across the Atlantic, in a neighborhood within the city of Soroca in Moldova, elaborate facades hide unfinished houses and empty lots. Pavel Braila’s photographic series, Barons’ Hill, captures the precarious infrastructure of aspiration in a community that is occupied for only a portion of each year by the Roma community. Historically transient and politically unaffiliated, the Roma traverse the European continent, working as trades and craftspeople, entertainers, and itinerant laborers. Migration—of humans, of flora and fauna, both past and present—is the subject Dylan Graham’s hand-cut paper rendering of Mannah Atin, the island now part of the five boroughs that make up New York City. The overlay of a chain-link fence design is a reminder of the persistent politics and policies of colonialism.

“Allowing borders to determine your thinking is incompatible with the modern era,” says celebrated artist and activist Ai Wei Wei. A longing for transcendence, both physical and metaphoric, connects Ellen Kooi’s Hindeloopen—IJsdameto the 19th-century Romantic tradition of the sublime: a combination of beauty and terror that induces a transcendent emotional response. Kooi’s lone figure drifting among ice floes recalls the works of German painter Caspar David Friedrich, echoing both Sea of Ice (1823-24) and Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (c. 1818). The light and composition in Kooi’s photograph of two women in a field with a lone, possibly abandoned farmhouse, recalls 19th-century Barbizon school paintings, which highlight the intersection of pastoral beauty, rural labor, and human vulnerability. It is unclear if the figures in Lissabon—Border are at home or seeking shelter or escape.

Ambiguity is often associated with states of transition, a topic Goicolea frequently explores in his images of adolescence. The boys floating in his series, Under,are stills from the film Amphibians. In the film, boys in school uniforms run through the forest, and eventually dive head-first into the water.  As Goicolea explains, “The progression unfolds as a reverse process of evolutionary maturation in which an amphibious creature that typically spends the first half of its life in water and the second on land ultimately returns to its aquatic origins.”

An empty rowboat rests on the sparkling, watery surface of Goicolea’s Jettisoned, surrounded by mysteriously floating cinder blocks. Upon closer inspection, the artist reveals the truth of this photographic illusion: human hands are holding up the cinder blocks. Is this an image of a drowning, a rescue, an aborted attempt at migration? A first-generation Cuban-American, Goicolea first traveled to the island nation as an adult in 2008, after which he created a series of works inspired by both the truth and fiction of the family history he found there. Frequently used in Cuba to shore up crumbling infrastructure and create shelter, these cinder blocks attest to the mythology of Goicolea’s invented memories from which he spins tales at once unreal and true, resonant and relevant to contemporary global conditions.


Pavel Braila (Moldovan)
Barons’ Hill, 2004

Antonio Cazorla (Spanish)
Atlantic, 2016
Oil on canvas

Jeremy Dean (American)
Economics, 2010

Michael Eastman (American)
Green Dining Room, 2002
Man in Arch, 1999
Chromogenic prints

Anthony Goicolea (American)
Jettisoned, 2009
Chromogenic print

Under I, 2001
Under II, 2001
Under III, 2001
Under V, 2001
Chromogenic prints

Dylan Graham (New Zealander)
Mannah Atin, 2006
Paper cut-out

Ellen Kooi (Dutch)
Alphen aan de Pijn – waterkant, 2002-2003
Hindeloopen – IJsdame, 1997
Katwijk – bomen, 2005
Overveen – klif, 2007
Schellinkhout – de dijk, 2000
Enduraflex prints on Plexiglas

Lissabon – border, 2007
Fuji Crystal Archive on Plexiglas

Yasser Piña Peña (Cuban)
From the series Ejercicio Repaso [Review exercise], 2009
Lambda prints

Simon Schubert(German)
Untitled (Chapel), 2011