During the 2020 pandemic, Ricardo Brey, unable to leave his home and studio in Ghent, Belgium, turned to the color blue, which he associated with the sky and sea, symbols of an unattainable expansiveness and freedom. In his works on paper from this period, Brey adopts an almost exclusively blue palette, a significant departure from the earth-colored ochers and rusty reds of previous works on paper. Brey works this dramatic shift in hue into a coherent and ambitious expansion of the ongoing series Adrift that he began in 2014.
Brey created this open-ended series in part as a way of processing the immense horror he felt when he returned to his native Cuba after more than twenty years in exile to discover wide-spread deforestation. This horror is made explicit in drawings like Poison Tree (2020), whose title reflects the artist’s personal concerns about humankind’s harmful relationship with the environment. Featuring collaged text reading "tree" and a rhizomatic assemblage of branches that extend ever outwards, partially obscured by deep stains of Parisian blue pigment, the work constructs a ghostly interpretation of a tree whose form warns of climate peril.