A while back I wrote a short review of a show to which Amanda Manitach contributed work. While trying to describe a set of paintings, I stated that Manitach’s work makes me feel that I should be reading more, as her art is often inspired by her interest in obscure literature and philosophy. I later spoke with Manitach at an event at Project Space: Available, and she shared some specifics with me about those influences that would soon appear again in her work exhibited at Vignettes, an alternative space for art displays that has existed for over two years
At Philosophy in the Bedroom, a one-night-only art event at Vignettes, Manitach showed over a dozen works dating back to 2007. As both artist and curator of the show, Manitach chose only watercolors, pulling a series of works from her flat files drawing on themes of seduction, femme fatales and gory sexual murders. Many of the works shown are an ongoing investigation into the obscure and obscene art of the interwar Weimar Republic, a time in Germany when cultural tolerance was at an all time high, art was very much avant-garde, and there was a trend for images of gory murders with overt sexual content. These images were a reaction to actual murders of the time that both shocked society and created intrigue and interest in darker unconscious desires.
The art of Otto Dix, George Grosz, Alfred Kubin and Christian Schad provide inspiration for Manitach, along with the theme of lustmord, a specific genre of fetishized sexual murders popularly depicted in 1920s Germany. Manitach takes the gory murders that were roughly sketched out in Otto Dix’s work and makes them soft, loosely rendered drawings that adapt the theme but move forward. Figures in Manitach’s work are often sexually ambiguous; genitals are drawn in, but only softly and suggestively and body shapes are androgynous, although most are more feminine than masculine. Their setting amongst heavily cushioned chairs and beds and nursery furnishings adds to this feminine energy.
The crowd that showed up at Vignettes was not shy to pick a favorite piece. Was it the skull in the corner of the image referencing Vanitas that was most captivating, or the pooled up crimson blood of “Odalisque”? The rocking horses inspired by surrealist printmaker Alfred Kubin were a favorite among a few viewers, as was a poodle occupying a drawing titled “Lustmord.” Someone was experiencing an untimely death as a dog watched—but oh was that dog itself a sight to behold! The more I see Amanda Manitach’s work the more I crave glimpses of what inspired her creations. The work is beautiful in its dreamy, loosely drawn figures, lightly washed in soft watercolors and accented with gilded frames, but it is the genesis of the work that fascinates me. Through Manitach’s work, one can discover the writings of the Marquis de Sade, the prints of Alfred Kubin, and the art of Otto Dix among many other references to literature I have yet to read.
Jeremy Buben goes to art galleries, museums, performance dance shows and the best gumbo restaurants in Seattle. All of the time. You can read more of his suggested events and short subject posts at his blog Le Dandysme.