Bad as I Wanna Be

Bad as I Wanna Be
Piper BrettLayet Johnson, 
Keith J. Varadi, and
Andrew Ellis Johnson
Curated by Joshua Bienko
August 24 – September 22, 2013

Opening Reception:
Saturday, August 24, 7-10pm

Ortega y Gasset Projects is pleased to announce Bad as I Wanna Be, a group show organized by Joshua Bienko, including works by Piper Brett, Layet Johnson, Keith J. Varadi and Andrew
Ellis Johnson.

Using skin and flesh as a vehicle, the work in Bad as I Wanna Be constructs a wide symbolic economy. From pornography (skin magazines), to meat (flesh consumed), to torture (flesh abused), to painting (bruised or manipulated skin or surface), the work is not a gradual coming-together of ideas, but a kind of doubling reversal of ideas into their opposite forms.

Layet Johnson’s practice embodies Slack. Rooted in the Church of the SubGenius, Slack is not clearly defined, but something Mr “Bob” Dobbs, its founder, has. Sex and avoidance of work are two ways to achieve Slack,providing Johnson a pretext for delivering an informed, profoundly efficient body of work. In Can Kim (Bright Sun of the 21st Century), Johnson’s spray-tanned hide is “tattooed” with one of Kim Jong il’s many monikers.

Piper Brett’s work is equally precise. The Subject. The Glitter., a large print of a vagina on aluminum paper, The Black Frank White, a photo of Biggie Smalls adhered to the wall, and the remnants that make up the shrink wrapped Hurricane Porn, are resolute and unapologetic objects. Striving against the Kantian-Hegelian subjective double team, Brett builds an objective net within which meaning is cast.

Keith J. Varadi avoids conceptual games straightforwardly. Varadi’s paintings are part of a series of works that symbolically function as “excerpts” or “singles” cognizant of their surroundings. Like Solomon’s warning, they are the company they keep. Among the wise, they humbly learn. Among fools, they will eventually be destroyed. A narrative concerned with the act of painting and its historical misconceptions purposefully accrues over time.

Poetically devoted to subjectivity, Andrew Ellis Johnson’s single piece, Choke: Witness for Peace, does not belong. Embedded with vertebrata eyes, the 34-inch wooden baseball bat threatens and observes. If hardcore pornography is purported to “show it all,” Johnson’s bat “sees it all.” It is as impotent as it is omnipotent, forcefully antagonizing the role of art today.

Bad as I Wanna Be is the title of Dennis Rodman’s 1997 biography written by Dennis Rodman and Tim Keown.

Layet Johnson currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. After completing his MFA at The University of Georgia in 2011, Johnson attended artist-in-residencies at The Vermont Studio Center and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, among others. Johnson’s recent exhibitions include solo shows in Georgia and Kansas, along with group shows in New York, Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. In January, 2012, Johnson was named one of “100 Artists to Watch” by Modern Painters. In November, he will have a solo exhibition at Good Weather, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Piper Brett is an artist based in Philadelphia she received her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 2004. She has exhibited work in Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia, PA and Benrimon Contemporary in NYC. Piper has been featured in the Summer 2011 edition of ArtNews as a Critics Pick by Edith Newhall, as well as reviewed on the, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer and by Christine Yong Wap at

Keith J. Varadi is an artist, writer, and curator based in New York. He received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA from Rutgers University. He is a co-founder and member of the collective Picture Menu.

Andrew Ellis Johnson is Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh USA. His work across diverse media appears internationally in galleries, electronic and video festivals, public collaborations, conferences, books and journals. Recent residencies and exchange projects include those at Korean National University of the Arts in Seoul, University of the Arts London at Camberwell, Fayoum International Art Center in Egypt, and Sites of Passage in Jerusalem/Ramallah/Pittsburgh. Andrew Ellis Johnson

Joshua Bienko has exhibited at the Dallas Contemporary, Big Medium (Texas Biennial), the Guggenheim Museum and Vox Populi. In the last two years, he has had solo shows at Artpace in San Antonio, 4411 Montrose in Houston, and in the Spring of 2014, Lipscomb University in Nashville. His approach is diverse employing painting, ARTRAPPING, drawing, video, pdf distribution, and basketball. Born in New York, Bienko received a BFA from the University of Buffalo and an MFA from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Drawing at the University of Tennessee.

Ortega y Gasset Gazette – JULY 2013 – first issue