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In this article, Colombian writer Antonio Montaña provides an overview of the work and artistic career of Enrique Grau. He begins by mentioning the Salón de los XXVI held in the late forties, in which Grau, along with other artists committed to Modern art in Colombia, took part. Montaña emphasizes the way Grau places figures in a symbolic space and turns them into allegories. He also discusses the range of activities in which Grau engaged: in addition to painting, he designed posters, wardrobes and stage sets, and worked on a number of film projects. In Montaña’s view, the pictorial lyricism in Grau’s work indicates the privileging of the sensual over the intellectual. Montaña also analyzes the centrality and importance of the figure of the woman to Grua’s work. He assesses Grua’s passage to the sculpture medium in the late seventies out of the need to endow the female figure already present in his painting with greater subjectivity. The article becomes poetic towards the end when it discusses the enormous contribution that Grau made to Colombian art, particularly in terms of his treatment of form and his creation of new visual worlds.
This article was published in the Lecturas Dominicales, or Sunday Readings, section of Bogotá-based newspaper El Tiempo on April 11, 2004, ten days after the death of Enrique Grau (b. 1932), a key figure in the consolidation of Modern art in Colombia. Because it is an obituary, the text is rich in metaphor; it makes use of sonorous language as it pays tribute and voices profound respect. Antonio Montaña strives to present the artist as a magician of form and as a steadfast and always poetic innovator who, on the basis of figuration, depicted the depths of the human soul. Indeed, Montaña compares Grua’s creative process to that of a musician.
Grau first gained public recognition in 1940 at the first Salón de Artistas Colombianos, where his work Mulata cartagenera [Mulatta from Cartagena] was awarded an honorable mention. In 1948, he and Alejandro Obregón (1920-1992) organized the Salón de los XXVI, a show of young artists held during the tenure of conservative president Mariano Ospina (1891-1976). In the sixties and seventies, Grau’s work was focused on the human figure, which eventually led him into three-dimensionality and an exploration of sculptural languages. In paying tribute to Grau’s memory, Montaña places emphasis on all of these facets of Grau’s production and on the important place he occupies in the history of 20th-century Colombian art.
This article emphatically demonstrates the importance of Enrique Grau to contemporary art from Colombia.