Entertainment & Arts

Review: When clothes are more than clothes: Phyllis Green’s designs are journeys, hung on a hanger

Phyllis Green’s “Five Sheaths,” 2017. Five cotton garments, wooden hangers, each garment 48 by 18 by 4 inches.
(Ruben Diaz / Chimento Contemporary)

Form and function are familiar enough allies. Phyllis Green pairs function and fuel in her subtly provocative show at Chimento Contemporary. Her clothing and furnishings provide ignition for the spirit.

Phyllis Green's "Close your eyes and feel peace. Open them and ask what can I do to make this world better." 2017. Fabric, acrylic, feathers, wood, 70 by 20 by 12 inches. Ruben Diaz / Chimento Contemporary

A dark khaki raincoat hanging in a far corner of the gallery is the most resonant example. Beltless and buttonless, the stripped-down garment is all business on the outside. Inside, it is lined with white feathers that peek out of the bottom of both sleeves and along the hem. The feathers sound a lyrical note, and they invite the wearer to think metaphorically about loft, buoyancy, elevation. Green's title: "Close your eyes and feel peace. Open them and ask what can I do to make this world better." The coat is nothing less than a uniform for transformation, outerwear to encourage inner growth.

The coat, and five simple, sleeveless, colored cotton sheaths lined with woodgrain-patterned fabric, all hang from carved wood walking sticks, another clue that Green's work here is all about the journey. She bases these recent pieces on specific Vedic parables and flavors them with a conceptual humor full of inversion and plays on material. Her "Sky Shade," photo-printed with an image of fluffy white clouds, doubles as window and window covering.

Throughout, replications of nature — feathers, wood, sky — appear as inducements to move closer to the real thing, and toward a state of enlightenment. Like the garments, several other sculptures are activated through performance, intended to be worn or otherwise occupied. These range from a Seussian feathered top hat and wearable tree-trunk shell to an enigmatic, wheeled, waist-high chain-mail enclosure, paved in pebbles. Not all of this spiritual kindling catches fire, but even the sputterers possess Green's unmistakable spark.

Chimento Contemporary, 622 S. Anderson St., Space 105, L.A. Through Dec. 16; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 433-0508,

Phyllis Green, "Life After Life After Life," installation view. Ruben Diaz / Chimento Contemporary

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