Phaiz recently opened its doors to an eclectic and unlikely crowd of fashionistas and urban artists, gathered together under the auspices of…Fashion? Friendship? Art? Phaiz is a fusion—or collision—of all of the above, drawing inspiration from worlds oftentimes directly opposed. The urban aesthetic is appropriated and transformed by an owner and collector whose roots dig not into Chicago’s concrete jungle but into the highly cultivated, highly cultured soil of high fashion and even higher-brow art.
Owner Robin Kyle originally envisioned the space as an opportunity to express her passion for fur, traditionally accessible to only the wealthiest social strata and a far cry from the reaches of site-specific street art created by Michael Genovese and friends. But the right people in the right place at the right time were able to bring something more to the table—or more precisely, to the walls.
Her experiment is a collaboration with Lauren Pacheco and Peter Kepha, owners of Bridgeport’s 32nd&urban gallery/space, and the managers and curators of Phaiz’s art component. Pacheco and Kepha’s involvement accounts for more than half of the hype, but there were plenty of honest-to-goodness shoppers in the audience on opening night as well.
The storefront is divided in half to showcase Genovese’s enormous black and silver enamel-on-aluminum paintings alongside Kyle’s fur-lined found garments—mostly sweatshirts, cuffs and collars. The juxtaposition is striking and unexpected: are we looking at fashion as art or paintings as fashion? Genovese’s titles, “Decadence” and “Temptation,” point directly to this discrepancy. Moreover, is this DIY at its worst or best? The fur articles are individually handmade by Kyle herself, giving them significantly more authenticity than most fashion items, haute or not. But does this translate into enough street cred to be able to garner attention from artgoing audiences, whose main priority is not conspicuous consumption, but rather appreciating artworks and their artists? When asked how to reconcile the context, Genovese remarked he didn’t feel the need, merely that he sees his exhibition as a provocative dialogue between art and fashion, one which could not have happened were the experiment not to have occurred. (Angeline Gragasin)
Michael Genovese shows at Phaiz Gallery/Boutique, 673 North Milwaukee, through December 9.