Cursed Union: Gabriella Boyd, Jesse Mockrin, Shahryar Nashat, Joanna Piotrowska, and Khushna Sulaman-Butt
January 20, 2023–March 03, 2023

With Gabriella Boyd, Jesse Mockrin, Shahryar Nashat, Joanna Piotrowska, and Khushna Sulaman-Butt

In 1956, the late Swiss-French designer Janette Laverrière created a writing desk for an ambassador’s wife to include hidden compartments to store letters from her lovers.

A girlfriend of mine tells me she has three secret lovers. One with whom she’s held a tense relationship for fifteen years and almost left her husband for. Now they exchange fetished messages tacitly approved by her husband—marriage à deux. In their latest exchange, Patrick shares that he will serve his wife sushi from his toned and oiled naked body for his 40th birthday.

This exhibition centers around Hercules & Deianira — lovers of cursed union. A jealous Deianira, with a name that translates to “destroyer of husband”, unwittingly murders Hercules with a cloak soaked in the centaur Nessus’s blood intended to repel other women. From singular perspectives, the works collectively negotiate fidelity, trust, jealousy, desire, and betrayal, conjuring the query if perhaps every union, upon microscope, is preemptively imperfect and cursed?

Jesse Mockrin’s sensually entangled subjects strategically intertwine limbs with the number of subjects unresolved at first glance. In a translation from affect to pigment, the shallow vessel of Shahryar Nashat’s Lover_20.JPEG holds the liquid of condensed cerulean tears. Modeled after self-defense poses, subjects in photographs by Joanna Piotrowska act out tenors of relationships, fluctuating between emotional anguish and slapstick humor. Subverting expectations with attention to gendered aestheticization, Khushna Sulaman-Butt depicts an actor, preparing for the theatre of intimacy. In Gabriella Boyd’s painting Retina (viii), optical lenses trace a gaze fixed upon a landscape from within a carriage in transit as a floating tendon, akin to an umbilical cord or braided hair.

I wonder what it might be like to meet your soulmate in your 70’s. Instead of looking to the future, is time spent reliving the past? What is the depth of intimacy, without the barrier of fertile bodies, limited by youth? Do you recount your oblique possessions with full embrace; do you tell your lover everything?