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Bad As I Wanna Be

Piper Brett, Keith J. Varadi, Layet Johnson, Andrew Ellis Johnson

Curated by Joshua Bienko

August 24 – September 22, 2013

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.