Oh the perils of visiting the Vox Populi Gallery. Perhaps it was the questionable location on the corner of Carleton Street, a garbage filled alleyway deemed worthy of its own street name. Or maybe it was just that unidentifiable odor (a mixture of paint and urine) stubbornly lingering all the way up three flights of stairs to the gallery entrance. Whatever the case, something about this building felt much more like a when–will–they–find–my–body scenario than a mixed media installation featuring five avant–garde artists.

But if you’re willing to brave your way to the outskirts of Chinatown, Vox Populi’s current exhibition (running until October 30th) is an experience that’s worth the trip. Artists Piper Brett, Becky Suss, Emily Rooney, Kikuko Tanaka and Nguyen Tan Hoang expose Philadelphians to the experimental art typical of an off–the–beat gallery you might run into in Chelsea, NYC. From Hoang’s series of short films collectively titled Multiple and Unending Videos, to Emily Rooney’s multimedia installation, All Alone, each display requires a certain commitment from audiences, forcing the viewer to weave between the works and even crawl through a makeshift gate in exchange for an otherwise inaccessible grasp of the artists’ visions.

Curious? You should be. Not curious enough? Let’s talk about vaginas. An entitlement to the unrestrained display of female nudity remains an inexplicable, yet historically warranted, privilege of the fine arts. Brett’s work, The Show, capitalizes on this creative freedom with a large–scale oil painting of an anonymous vagina. A portion of the canvas captures a woman’s legs sprawling across a background of blue bed sheets, leaving the center of the painting fully dedicated to the detailed image of the aforementioned fanny.

On the opposite wall, a small headshot of a contemplative Biggie Smalls adopts what seems, at first, to be an extremely random role in the installation. But upon closer inspection, one soon realizes that his speculative face hangs directly in line with the vagina on the canvas across from it. The central sculpture, four oversized golden links of a chain, clarifies the Biggie photograph, boldly referencing the stereotypical excessiveness of rap culture as a whole and, thus, its most compelling similarity to fine arts: an objectification of the female body.

Though the venue seems like it could use a good scrub, there’s something exhilarating about trekking up flights of grungy stairs to discover such a quirky breed of Philadelphian art gallery. The exhibit’s five installations represent experimental art at its finest: shocking, witty and kind of confusing.