Emigrating from Cuba to Belgium in 1990, Brey infuses many of his sculptural works with elements related to both his Afro-Cuban spiritual upbringing as well as Flemish, Baroque, and Gothic influences he frequently encounters in Europe. In recent work, Brey investigates seemingly oppositional aspects of the human experience––the inherent tensions between binary concepts like life and death, dreams and nightmares, masculinity and femininity, black and white, manmade and organic.
In Wooden Face (2013), Brey alludes to the colloquial Cuban idiom “cara de madera,” usually used in jest to refer to someone with a stoic “poker face.” An antique wooden ironing board supports a small rock with a trumpet protruding from it, circled by concentric strands of chaquira beads. Implying the life force and spirit of human breath, or the pneuma, Brey frequently incorporates wind instruments in his sculptures, which also tie into the artist’s decades-long engagement with jazz music. Found black scarves meant to simulate hair around the face frame the sculpture, referencing traditional Fang masks from Cameroon and Gabon.