Osain (2012-2021) is from a series of Kouros sculptures Ricardo Brey began in 2012, referring to the modern use of the Ancient Greek word kouros—meaning youthful boy (often of a noble rank)—as a term for free-standing Greek sculptures of nude male youths that begin to appear in the Archaic period in Greece. In the canon of traditional Western art history, the kouros represents a specific moment of artistic innovation with the spread of free-standing figural sculpture from North Africa and the Near East, specifically ancient Egypt, to continental Europe via the Aegean.
Brey’s kouroi consist of birds’ skulls formed from wood and clay that are mounted on a metal rod along with carefully arranged found elements. In Osain, these elements include beads, ropes, chains, and an assortment of small trinkets. Osain gets its name from a Santería divinity, or orisha, associated with herbs and healing. Santería is an Afro-Caribbean (and more specifically Afro-Cuban) religion that draws largely upon traditional Yoruba religion from West Africa, Roman Catholic Christianity, and Spiritism. The blending of cultural iconographies seen in Osain is exemplary of Brey’s artistic ethos. Refuting reductive binarisms, Brey’s art surmounts divisions between myths, religions, and systems of thought and value to champion a holistic approach to understanding the human condition.