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By Matthew Nash

Currently on view in a living room in Jamaica Plain is the exhibition "Seriousness," featuring work by Nate McDermott, Shawn Zamechek and Meg Rotzel. The living room belongs to Nova Benway, co-curator of the Berwick Research Institute’s Artist in Research program, and it is the first such exhibition she has hosted in her home. "The Berwick really wasn't involved in that decision," Benway said. "I've just always wanted to have a show and it was pretty easy to put one on." The work on view is a mix of pieces that seem to suitably fit within Benway’s living room, or any living room - McDermott's framed drawings and Rotzel's sewn sculptures would be comfortable anywhere - even though she has removed all the furniture to provide an open viewing space.

McDermott's E.T. Drawings are a series of pencil drawings on plain paper. The marks are roughly layered, each creating a different blob-like shape causing the works to look more like sketches than final pieces. McDermott describes his process as originating with his memory of the movie E.T., and how imagery and scenes from the film have permeated the memory of his own life. The drawings begin with E.T. but grow into forms that are amorphous and less about the film than memory, tiny sparks of recognition that inspire flickers of memories or deja vu. Some work better than others, tickling that delicious sense of a memory just beyond reach, while others stay quiet.

Rotzel's two sewn sculptures lounge in the middle of the room. One sits atop a wooden table, the other on a stylish floor fan. At the opening, I asked Benway if the fan was there to keep the room cool on a warm August night, or if it was part of the work. "It's totally part of the work," she said. "Meg had that in her apartment, and we kept putting her pieces on it when we were figuring out what to show."

It's tempting to use the word "cute" when discussing Rotzel's sculptures, since there are very reminiscent of toys. Yet, they do not resemble animals so much as bizarre vegetables or mutated fruits sewn together in strange new ways. They are the result of the simple domestic acts of sewing and gardening - blurred together.

Zamechek's webcasts complete "Seriousness." Periodically during the reception (and presumably for the run of the show), Zamecheck appeared online, webcasting from Philadelphia. His short performances toyed with the very fundamentals of performance art and melded them with a type of YouTube worldview. At times he seemed to be poking fun at the numerous misuses of online video as an art medium while at others he jabbed at the traditions of performance art, forcing his audience to sit through one mundane act after the next, each punctuated by his oft-repeated phrase, "Thank you very much," as if he were a stage performer finishing his act before a live audience.

"Seriousness" is the kind of show you want to see in the summer. It's fun and airy and doesn't take itself too... serious. As for future living room exhibitions, Benway says: "I am definitely planning to do another show."

"Serioiusness" is on view August 23 - September 25, 2008 at the home of Nova Benway, 15 Bardwell Street #1, in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.
Viewing hours are Wednesdays from 6-8pm.

All images are courtesy of the artists.
Zamechek image via Google video.
Other mages by the author.


About Author

Matthew Nash is the founder of Big Red & Shiny. He is Associate Professor of Photography and New Media at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and was the 2011-12 Chair of the University Faculty Assembly. Nash is half of the artist collaborative Harvey Loves Harvey, who are currently represented by Gallery Kayafas in Boston and have exhibited in numerous venues since 1992.

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