Forward to “El Gallo” by Faith McClure
August 12, 2015
In her lustrous figurative works, Ann-Marie Manker uncovers the hidden wills of a fictional cast of characters, giving them agency to act upon covert desires. Her protagonists are often staged in ambiguous negotiations, either asserting individual authority or falling prey to an unnamed antagonizer—or both. All tread an inexplicably precarious landscape.
Manker’s last several bodies of work have examined the roles of power and subordination as a predicament of gender. This dynamic is played out in bubble gum fantasies and daydreams of Manker’s characters, most of whom are women. Some are depicted as a conniving femme fatal, luring her predator with sexual charm. Others are mere pretty faces, their attempts at empowerment obscured by naïveté, fragility or loss of direction.
In El Gallo, which means rooster or “cock” in Spanish, Manker has devised the inverse of these earlier bodies of work. Rather than an ominous abstraction, the dark cloud hovering over Manker’s women instead takes center stage as an amalgamated archetype, a chimerical aggressor whose agenda the artist details in her personalized lexicon of symbols.
A spin on the mythical galipote, a shapeshifting monster in Latin American tales, these gallos are elegant but maleficent tricksters. Inspired by personal experiences in Tuscon, Arizona, their classically shaped figures are strong with the same resilience and determination of the desert, their desires translated as unnatural growths protruding from animal-like bodies.
Manker’s gallos also include a handful of unlikely depictions: delicate young men engaged in atypical intimate acts, or what the artist calls “bromance rituals”—combing each other’s hair, shaving each other’s beards or helping each other dress. In the same way her earlier works addressed power by emasculating it, Manker seems to slay her demons by rendering them beautiful, as if by perfecting them visually, she is able to somehow control them.