Part of a group of works on paper modeled after botanical illustrations, Trumpet Roots (2021) depicts a plant of the same name. These illustrations are outlined in pencil, then painted blue, a predominant color in many of Brey’s recent works. Much of Brey’s current work has been created, in part, as a means 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. His feelings of grief and loss are visible in works like Trumpet Roots, where botanical illustrations are largely colored using blue gouache to create a vivid watercolor effect, leaving parts of the plant’s penciled silhouette unpainted. By contrasting the somber shades of blue against the unpainted sections, Brey creates a striking, almost ghostly effect, a visualization of the artist’s personal concerns about humankind’s harmful relationship with the environment and the frightening loss that can come from it. This is particularly salient in Trumpet Roots as the plant that it depicts is one of the seven species in the Brugmansia genus, all of which are classified as Extinct in the Wild, existing only in cultivation. Nevertheless, Brey sees nature as a symbol of hope for the future, maintaining that “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.”
2021: Blue Shore, Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY
Mpoma, Annie Wetsi, Hannah Iterbeke, Koen Leemans, and Peter Verhelst. Ricardo Brey: Gap in the Clouds. Luc Derycke, Femke Vandenbosch, and Isabel Brey eds. Exh. cat. Ghent: MER. Imprint of Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2022, p. 35.