Black Kouros (2012–2021) is a part of a collection of Kouros sculptures that Ricardo Brey began in 2012. Brey’s kouroi often consist of a bird’s skull formed from wood and clay mounted on a metal rod along with carefully arranged found elements. The titles of these works refer 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 in the spread of free-standing figural sculpture from the Near East, specifically ancient Egypt, to continental Europe via the Aegean.
The placement of the bird skull-like form atop the long metal stand in Black Kouros can be understood on one level as an allusion to the Archaic Greek sculptures, loosely referencing the human form. On the other hand, the stylized skull forms could be comparable to the use of birds’ skulls as staff finials, a connection to Brey’s deep ties with Afro-Cuban religion and culture. Art historian Arie Hartog describes Brey’s work as taking “its place simultaneously inside and outside the Western European art world—a paradoxical situation that arises from the current status of international art.” This artistic ethos is exemplified in works like Black Kouros; resulting from Brey’s passion for cultural hybridity and expansive cultural knowledge, and yielding countless plausible meanings and interpretations.