In the year 2000, there were eightieth birthday celebrations for two distinguished Colombian artists, Enrique Grau (1920–2004) and Édgar Negret (1920–2012). For its part, the Republic of Colombia decided to honor their respective bodies of work. Written by the well-known art critic and curator Eduardo Serrano (b. 1939), this text attempts to place the work of the two artists in the range of twentieth-century Colombian art, explaining the reasons why they deserve this homage.
Grau’s work has been recognized as one of the most original bodies of work in Colombia during the entire twentieth century, especially because of his unlimited imagination and the apparent futility of the characters that populate his work. Serrano ties the artist to coastal idiosyncrasy, whose typical cheerfulness is identifiable in the work of this artist who hails from the city of Cartagena. Even so, the writer also identifies the critical intent of much of the artist’s work, which is always ready to call into question the banality of human customs, using irony along with abundant humor and freshness.
For his part, Negret is the Colombian sculptor best known in the international art world. His work brings together a vast personal culture and a persistent desire for innovation. Serrano calls special attention to the technical dimension of this work, in which the use of screws and nuts instead of welding (as well as his preference for aluminum instead of iron) are evidence of his modern spirit. Negret was always ready to enter into dialogue with the priorities of the times and to propose sculptural solutions to the specific art problems of his era.