Angelo Filomeno’s sumptuous embroidery and appliqué
Marianne Boesky Gallery
535 W. 22nd St.,
Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
A fitting grand finale to Fashion Week was the opening of Angelo Filomeno’s show at Marianne Boesky. Fashion week. I say this because Filomeno’s work is embroidery and other devices usually the domain of clothing designers. The “Tiny Hands” of the Parisian workshops that do all the intricate handwork for the couture shows come to mind. The show also evokes those embroidered Philippine satin souvenir jackets. Appliqué, beading, stone (semi-precious) work, all manner of sewing and embroidery are the elements of Filomeno’s creations. His work is so consistently over the top that it invites the vernacular of the fashion press so I’m going to use some of it.
One particularly striking number is a group of vertical panels in silver silk shantung. The design on these is of skeletons, sometimes just skulls, roosters, or parts thereof. The execution is in sumptuous embroidery, appliqué. There are jewels, beads, and cording, all in similar tones of smoky silver and each panel with a bright red accent of some sort. Other pieces have designs of the tree of life motif. Vanitas, of sorts, is a recurrent theme. Growth, decadence, and decay evidence themselves at every turn. Thus the plant forms, skulls, and bugs. Yes bugs, flies, roaches, and beetles among them, swarm all over the place.
Temporality, though a big theme, is also a simple one and shouldn’t be counted on to pass for intellectual rigor. Also, the works all have color schemes. There are a number in royal purple, several predominately black ones, and an eye-popping red one. The back room has three suspended stylized medieval armor helmets executed in silvery silk. These are festooned with all manner of bric-a-brac, beads, spikes, and other embellishments and topped off with the longest pheasant feathers and other plumage ever. All this fabulousness conveys a notion of elegance happily long forgotten or confined to the interiors of some perfume shops.
I sense that the measure of irony here is minimal. The esthetic is not only one of “more is more,” but also one where intensity of labor counts as quality. All this is interesting in the face of 500 years of painting culture, not to mention the current scene with its hundreds of levels of art savvy and hipness. The work is assuredly dazzling, quite literally. It’s either something truly amazing, or strictly for Siegfried and Roy.