Through his work, Grau celebrates the diversity and cultural richness of Colombia and Panama. In search of a coherent narrative and representation, he creates Rita, who, beyond being a woman, becomes the personification of the variety and complexity of the people found in these regions, thus becoming a recurring figure in several of the Panamanian artist’s paintings.
Rita is an emblematic figure in Grau’s work. It appears in several paintings, often in a social or political context, and becomes a symbol of struggle and resistance. In her work, Grau portrays Rita as a strong and courageous woman, who faces adversity with courage and determination.
Rita as a Latin American rebellion
In some paintings, Rita is portrayed as a young, attractive woman with Afro-descendant features and dressed in traditional clothing. In these works, Rita is a symbol of the beauty and femininity of women of African descent. Grau portrays Rita with a wealth of detail, from her hair to her clothing, and uses bright, vivid colors to highlight her beauty.
Oil on canvas
140 x 120 cm
In other works, Rita is represented in a more abstract manner, with shapes and colors that suggest her presence rather than depicting her realistically. In these paintings, Rita represents freedom and imagination. Grau uses vibrant colors and fluid shapes to capture the essence of Rita and her free spirit.
In some of Grau’s works, Rita is portrayed alongside other characters, such as children or the elderly. In these paintings, Rita represents the unity and connection between the different generations of society. Grau uses the figure of Rita to unite the different ages and social classes of society, highlighting the importance of inclusion and cooperation.
Rita as the protagonist of a story
Grau also imagines Rita in different scenarios throughout the day to create fictional stories that envelop the viewer. For example, in the painting entitled “Rita at 10:30” we can see her just up after a night of partying, giving the impression that she is conversing with her suitor from the night before.
Rita 10:30, Enrique Grau
In the painting “Rita at 3:30” we see Rita already up and putting on her make-up to go out to party again. Later, there are other paintings where we are already seeing her at the party, showing us the stories that Grau tells us through different works and emphasizing that Rita is a character of his imagination that symbolizes the Caribbean woman of society, and regardless of the story or the way she is presented, she is always the same woman with a thick build, big hands and brown skin.
Enrique Grau, 1973
Through his paintings of Rita, Grau seeks to underscore the importance of recognizing and valuing cultural diversity in Latin America. Rita becomes a powerful and emblematic figure representing the struggle of Afro-descendants in the region, and her presence in Grau’s works is a statement of support for equality and social justice.