For Jim Williams recent exhibition Accigenitals at The Situation Room in Los Angeles, local Miami curator Cara Despain compiled this zine titled Obzine to accompany his show.
Accigenitals is a collection of objects and images drawn from the larger collection of Jim Williams' work. Representing one dimension of his personality that is couched within the all-encompassing self-portrait which is his life’s work—including his entire home, wardrobe, and correspondences—this subset reflects the playful absurdity of pareidolia: the very human psychological tendency to find familiarity in randomness. Here, instead of the face of Jesus on a piece of toast, or a man’s face on Mars, is a collection of look-alikes that is as intimately familiar as the childish sense of humor they invite. Though the objects are merely inanimate logs, rocks, and debris presented unaltered from how they were found, it doesn’t take much imagination to see phallic and vaginal forms in an overwhelming concentration. Our nature provokes this, but especially in the realm of art and aesthetics is this type of dirty scrutiny practiced. From Georgia O’Keefe to Stanley Kubrick, Surrealism to Feminism, landscape formation names like “Molly’s Nipple” to hashtags such as #thatlookslikeadick, Disney animation mishaps to delicate orchids, we are always looking for our most basic selves. Sexual organs, however, are not looked at as dirty or vulgar in all cultures—there are many civilizations that have over the ages overtly depicted genitalia in celebration and worship. In the particular puritanical climate of the U.S., images of genitalia or sexuality are complicated, contradictory, disguised, shameful and censored. This tends to be determined unevenly, conservatively, and often is distinctly lacking in any whimsy whatsoever. Do some of these rocks and sticks appear sexually graphic? Yes! Can they in actuality be deemed obscene? No! They aren’t real body parts, after all, and are real body parts inappropriate anyway? With all the recent debates about censorship, modesty and double standards in the social media world and in North American culture in general, this tried and true juvenile tactic at the moment is rather pleasing.
For Williams this collection started with an assortment of photographs titled “Envy”, a pointed joke about the male tendency to compare size and virility as well as the resulting behavioral and social implications and consequences. The resulting collection points to a symbolic problem that Accigenitals ultimately evidences: the imbalance of gender representation in pictures, in social structures and psychology. Self-aware, Williams has graded himself—calculating the disparity within his decades-old collection. This edition of obzine—the carefully crass printed compliment to the exhibition—itself has the familiar imbalance of approximately 70% males represented to 30% females. Why do we see more phalluses, and why are these percentages so consistent in the broader society? Is this what we perceive to be 50/50? These numbers certainly persist in the art world and beyond. Collections say a lot about the collector but also about the larger cultural mass from which the acquisitions are culled. These topics concerning gender balance have been explored by Micol Hebron with equal part fact and humor with her digital male nipple pasties, at the Situation Room and with her Gallery Tally project (the inspiration for the calculation of this collection) and thus Accigenitals at the Situation Room seems apropos.