f.marquespenteado’s solo exhibition ‘rivieras_bags_scarves_alps’, the artist’s third at Mendes Wood DM, is a world unto itself: a realm of elegance and bounty, perhaps to the point of meretricious excess. Split across two galleries, the show gathers multifarious mixed-media artworks, made between 2009 and 2017, which question the role of social norms, styles and environments in shaping bourgeois Western identity and the class anxiety that undergirds it.
The artist’s use of a gender-neutral moniker is itself a statement, given the cultural associations of the work’s principal medium: embroidery. Recurring throughout is a rectangular stitch, the ponto fernando, which the artist named after himself. F.marquespenteado’s dexterous command of needle and thread entices viewers to closely observe the countless fine, narrative details in his work.
In the main gallery, along one wall, a cascading display features dozens of brightly dyed and hand-painted silk and linen scarves (2009/17), each embroidered and stencilled with unique patterns.
Opposite hangs a wall of colourful handmade tote bags, fashioned from a patchwork of different fabrics. Scarves and totes appear as emblems of the ‘Alpine’ and ‘Riviera’ lifestyles imagined by the exhibition title – staples of the European jet-set. Between these installations stands a rustic, roofless, heptagonal hut, reminiscent of a bandstand or tourist kiosk. A row of hand-drawn, neoclassical balustrades runs along the bottom-half of its opaque, clear plastic walls, while above this hangs ‘Travel Notebooks’ (2018), a sequence of pale-hued collages of black and white photographs, gouache paintings and machine-made thread patterns on sheets of paper and cotton cloth. The vintage photographs portray scenes that the artist selected for their depictions of
an ‘Alpine lifestyle’: cocktail parties on the slopes (Travel Notebooks_03) or a crowd gathered on the steps outside a building in Lausanne (Travel Notebooks_04). In other works are images of grand plazas and manicured gardens, dining tables, cafes and card games. On the reverse of these walls (accessible through a plastic curtain), a sequence of colourful textile pieces and a couple of tote bags suggest a brighter and warmer – though no less hollow and anaesthetised – life in a fantasy ‘Riviera’.
On another wall of the main space, f.marquespenteado’s slanted stitches fill the background of a found, unsigned still life painting in oil (Stained Floral_01, 2017). Mounted to the wall below the painting, a wood and glass cabinet holds strips of embroidered animal hide. Atop the cabinet, two ceramic vases bearing plastic flowers with embroidered leaves add to the carefully composed domestic tableau, filled with bourgeois bric-a-brac. Meanwhile, the artist’s nearby Malaise Neo Concretista 20 (2015) – a small, framed cork acoustic insulation panel, spray-painted off-white and pinned with embroidered cloth – recalls relief works by Sérgio Camargo from the 1960s and ’70s, like a tawdry keepsake or an o -kilter reproduction, hung by a petit-bourgeois aspirant to the art-collecting class.
Known for exploring the perversity of domestic spaces, f.marquespenteado has altered the exhibition’s second gallery to resemble the sitting room of an Alpine lodge, stocked with the personal effects of one Christian Maier, a fictional character devised by the artist, whose portrait appears embroidered on the head of a tennis racket. The lower portion of the walls in this room have been spray-painted with the texture of stone block, while Maier’s art collection (all works by f.marquespenteado) hangs in the upper part. Once again, here, the artist’s meticulously crafted objects and sly installations lampoon our distinctions between socio-economic classes, and our futile pursuit of higher status.