In his work Manzo seeks to reveal the character of his subjects as they are "forced" to be themselves. He goes beneath the body's protective layer of skin, which registers all personal events that scar the human being, to reveal their fragility and inevitable mortality of all mankind.
"Through these paintings I am exploring the different stages of our lives as human beings," Manzo explains. "For me the skin is not only our protective varnish against harmful exterior forces or the medium with which to be touched and caressed, it is also where we register all of our personal events that somehow had touched us enough to scar us."
In most works, Manzo places the figures in the foreground with rarely a sense of an environment. Thus, the viewer is forced to focus on the Cubistic fragmented visages and figures that are painted with an expressionistic fervor.
The surfaces of these oil paintings range from thick impasto to thin washes with areas of
the canvas left bare. This treatment adds to the sensation of his subjects being flayed to reveal their innermost feelings.
Manzo's preferred format of squares, often as large as 6' x 6', also focuses the viewer's attention on the anguished faces and bodies. His palette of tones of black, brown, gray, and a blood red adds to the feeling of bleak reality. As perhaps accents of optimism, occasional hits of dandelion yellow, sky blue, or cardinal red brighten his palette.
Working from colored ink, chalk, and graphite sketches and gouaches as well as directly on the canvas, the artist has great freedom to "let the painting develop by itself," he explains. Because of the slow drying of the oil medium, Manzo works on as many as five paintings at the same time.
Manzo has been inspired by the painters Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo as well as by the photographers Graciela Iturbide and her mentor Manuel Alvarez Bravo, whose work was greatly inspired by "the honorable indigenous people of Mexico." The magic realist painter Paula Rego has also influenced his work. "I try to maintain a balance between my cultural background and the contributions of conceptual art," he notes.
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