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EL RAPTO DE LAS MULATAS
CARLOS ENRÍQUEZ

El Rapto de las Mulatas (detail)

   Telling stories in multiple formats was the constant vocation of Carlos Enríquez Gómez (Las Villas, Cuba, 1900-1957), a painter, illustrator and novelist who is considered one of the best exponents of the Cuban artistic avant-garde. Influenced by modernism, he imposes in his pictorial expression the self-awareness of his environment, representing the sublimation and decadence of his surroundings. The search for the concept of national identity and the representation of the Cuban setting are the axes that define his intellectual career and are materialized in the creation (although extensible to all his artistic production), of the "guajiro romancero", a Creole and visual relative of his Spanish counterpart.

   Bohemian connoisseur of Europe and the United States, he chooses a semi-rural location in Havana to park his creative environment in a house that he baptizes with the apt name of "El hurón azul". An environment that is personally marked by the experience of alcohol and diseased bones, opening the doors to physical suffering that anchors him even more to the reality that he wants to recreate so much, perhaps also as a palliative. However, this image of weakness does not serve to identify the painter; better to use that of the artist who seems to take pleasure in shocking the sometimes too puritanical audience with his vigorous nudes and the marked eroticism in many of his pieces. And this sensualism is accompanied by fluid lines, transparencies and intertwined chromatic shapes that emerge from a palette made with the colors of the tropics: just as abundant and intense. Movement and crudeness are also not lacking, essential elements of the Cuban situation, although always attenuated by the indelible mark of a lax spirit that prevents taking serious positions in the Antilles.

   The interpretation of the sensitivity of Cuba, which is the axis of his Romancero, has its peak in the painting El rapto de las mulatas (1938, Oil on canvas, 162.4 x 114.5 cm) whose story is the Creole version of El rapto de las hijas de Leucipo, by Rubens. Carlos Enríquez proposes the paradoxical situation where, in an event of violence committed by two armed Spanish-descendant outlaw horsemen against two voluptuous Afro-Cuban women. Only complacency, seduction and consensual sensualism that transcends the four characters to reach the surrounding landscape, with phallic palms and hills as sinuous as the breasts of mulatto women is glimpsed. In transparent and delicate shades of red, brown, yellow, green, blue and white, the humid and hot climate of Cuba appears, and in a composition of two intersecting diagonals around which the elements of the painting intertwine, the usual impetus of the Cubans is portrayed. Machismo, highlighted with some horses, symbols of masculinity, vigor and power; sexism and the racist stigma of being promiscuous that was imposed on Creole mestizos, are elements as visible in this painting as the light and local colors of the Cuban countryside. Complex and full of details, this painting is a key contribution, conceptual and formal, to the search in his time for the answer to what is Cuban.

El Rapto de las Mulatas (detail)

El Rapto de las Mulatas (detail)

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