Emigrating from Cuba to Belgium in 1990, Ricardo 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 Blues Harp (2021), this can be seen in how Brey incorporates the plaster cast of a head. By painting the white plaster head blue—a color which, to the artist, represents an expansiveness and freedom that felt unattainable due to the global Covid-19 pandemic—and juxtaposing it against the blues harp (the most widely used type of harmonica), Brey recontextualizes traditional European imagery and refashions it as a part of his own new cultural idiom.
According to Brey, “The spirit of free association in jazz is present in all my work—thoughts that criss-cross and take different shapes over the years. Every time I make a work, it’s like someone left inspiration under my pillow again [and I absorb it in my sleep]—and I start to improvise with materials that surround that idea.” Brey’s incorporation of the spontaneity and free association of jazz music is particularly resonant in Blues Harp in the way the silver chains appear to pour out from the mouth of the plaster head and the harmonica like music from a musician and their instrument.