Few artists have accumulated enough work by the age of 21 to merit a solo show. Of course, Petra Collins
––photographer, curator, writer, and, as of last month, OC model
––isn't your average artist. Indeed, it would be shortsighted to call Discharge,
which opened at Capricious 88
on Friday, an anomaly in the gallery world simply because of Petra's age. Sure, her young subjects sometimes hold smartphones, and certain of her sculptures depict Rihanna lyrics. But more than speaking for a generation, these works speak from a perspective radically underrepresented in the art world: the female one.
, the name of the exhibit, is a reference to exactly what you think: “My dirty underwear," Petra explained the day before the opening. "[In the show], there’s underwear with discharge and there’s underwear with my period blood. It’s perceived as something you hide or something that’s embarrassing, but it's a natural thing that a vagina does to cleanse itself. I wanted to turn it into an art context.”
Petra's no stranger to perturbing gender stereotypes: in October, after Instagram deleted a picture of her unshaven bikini line, she wrote an essay
on censorship and the female body which propelled her to even more renown. At Discharge
, by the plastic-hardened panties, neon signs display lyrics from Rihanna, another woman who has been subject to censorship. “Rude Boy was marked 'explicit,'" Petra said. "It’s seen as something girls shouldn’t be listening to. And when I was listening to those lyrics I realized they were super sexually empowering for girls, which you don’t really hear in most music."
Ultimately, Rihanna lyrics and vaginal discharge have more in common than you think: both are instances of female sexuality that society has tried to repress. And if Petra's own life is any model, the best approach to censorship is to keep on talking.
Through April 27, 2014
88 Eldridge Street, 5th FL