Petra Collins

88 Eldridge Street, 5th Floor
February 28, 2014–April 27, 2014

Petra Collins, Love it when you eat it, 2014, neon, 80 x 60”.

There is nothing coy about the title of Petra Collins’s debut solo show, “Discharge.” For evidence, see the sculptural array of stiffened, blood-stained underwear on two pedestals, a gesture that implicitly extends into Collins’s photography displaying an unabashedly feminine vision for both its subjects and the rendering of their existence as essentially visual and tactile. Her images focus on the teenage gaze, which could refer to either her subjects’ vantage point or her own. Rather than through a nostalgic look back to adolescence—note the artist is twenty-one years old—the works derive their strength from directly capturing experiences of the private and social bodies of young girls. Girls who may lawfully be adults, but as in Mommy, 2013, which depicts an incoming call from said figure, are still bound by childish connections. Also, the photos show slight pixilation as inkjet prints, making for a pointedly un-precious contrast to the diaristic intimacy of the images.

Additionally, neon works arranged throughout the gallery electrify excerpts from text messages between Collins’s friends and from Rihanna lyrics. The neons project sass, but the photos dare to risk sincerity, as in Sofy Tear, 2013, in which a girl clasps her textbook over her chest with a tear running down her cheek. Her expression implies a certain melancholy satisfaction though, perhaps because this moment is about allowing an honest feeling, comfortingly embraced in another girl’s camera lens.

At times borrowing the playful erotics of Richard Kern’s work or the essayistic style of Lauren Greenfield, Collins’s aesthetic is an overall quieter counterpoint. Her tone is soft twilight clinging to an outline of a girl shyly undressing, as in Michelle Window, 2009, or coolly distanced curiosity as in Selfie #1, 2014, where two girls take an iPhone photo together in a garishly lit institutional bathroom. A representation of mediated presentation, it typifies technology’s feedback loop through which both the drama and the banality of girls’ lives are played out.

— Paige K. Bradley