Wanderlust, 2021. Mixed media on paper. 47 3/4 x 62 7/8 in (121.3 x 159.7 cm)
Wanderlust, 2021. Mixed media on paper. 47 3/4 x 62 7/8 in (121.3 x 159.7 cm)

ADAA: The Art Show 2022 (NY) – Alexander Gray Associates

Alexander Gray Associates presents recent work by Ricardo Brey. Featuring a selection of works on paper and boxes from the artist’s ongoing series Every Life is a Fire, the Gallery’s presentation speaks to Brey’s own identity as an Afro-Cuban artist who has lived and made work in Belgium for more than thirty years.
Encapsulating Brey’s artistic and philosophical aim of constructing transcultural dialogues that shed light on the human experience, each work from Every Life is a Fire is designed to be opened in a measured, meditative way. Sapphire Fluid (2021) unfolds to reveal a hidden, miniature world, presenting a transparent acrylic cylinder filled with blue painted thistles to viewers. Emblematic of Brey’s longstanding interest in cataloging his surroundings, the box unites botanical specimens with manmade objects to critically reflect on humankind’s fraught relationship with nature.

At the same time, Brey’s use of thistles alludes to his own biography. Emigrating from Cuba to Belgium as a young man, Brey found himself building a new life in a vastly different culture. Ultimately flourishing in his adopted city of Ghent, he has drawn parallels between his journey and that of the thistle—whose rhizomatic roots enable it to thrive in both the new world and the old. Reflecting on the work’s symbolism, Brey suggests, “The boxes are an attempt to spatially represent … a hermeneutics of the soul to create a topography of the mind.”

Elaborating on this “topography of the mind,” Brey’s works on paper foreground the natural world—an ongoing source of inspiration for the artist. Recent drawings like Wanderlust (2021) employ blue pigment, a color that the artist associates with the sky and sea, to suggest the unknowable expansiveness of nature. Juxtaposing swirling washes of cerulean ink with delicately drawn botanical imagery, Brey’s evocative drawings invite viewers to contemplate their own relationship with the environment while recalling the artist’s assertion, “Nature, and life in general, is quite resilient. No matter how hard you try, a weed will always come back—it is their essence to hold their ground, to stand up, to survive.”

Ricardo Brey’s work has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including Gap in the Clouds, Museum How van Busleyden, Mechelen, Belgium (2022); Adrift, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen, Germany and Museum De Domijnen, Sittard, the Netherlands (2019); Fuel to the Fire, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerp, Belgium (2015); BREY, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, Cuba (2014); Universe, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent, Belgium (2006–2007); and Ricardo Brey, Hanging around, GEM, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague, the Netherlands (2004). He has also participated in many group shows, including Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2022); the 56th Venice Biennale, All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015); Artesur, Collective Fictions at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2013); Trattenendosi at the 48th Venice Biennale, Italy (1999); and Documenta IX in Kassel, Germany (1992). He is the recipient of many awards and grants, including the Prize for Visual Arts from the Flemish Ministry of Culture (1998) and a Guggenheim Fellowship for Sculpture and Installation (1997). Brey’s work is included in public and private collections in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia, including the Bouwfonds Art Collection, The Hague, the Netherlands; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba; CERA Art Collection, Leuven, Belgium; Collection of Pieter and Marieke Sanders, Haarlem, the Netherlands; Collection de la Province de Hainaut, Belgium; de la Cruz Collection, Miami, FL; Fonds national d’art contemporain (FNAC), France; Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Miami, FL; Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany; Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, Mount Kisco, NY; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, Havana, Cuba; Museum de Domijnen, Sittard, the Netherlands; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Belgium; Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, FL; Province of East Flanders Monuments and Cultural Heritage, Belgium; Sindika Dokolo Foundation, Luanda, Angola; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent, Belgium; Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany; Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan, and others.

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