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Curated by Lissa Rivera (Museum of Sex)

Featuring: Panteha Abareshi, Mickey Aloisio, Amanda Calobrisi, Sedrick Chisom, Julia Dunham, Loren Erdrich, Ana Espinal, Jessica Harvey, Amy Johnquest, Danielle Lessnau, Kat Lyons, Michelle Mayer, Katie Morton, Hannah Murgatroyd, Alex O'Neal, Jennifer May Reiland, Shari Wilkins


I've been set free and I've been bound
To the memories of yesterday's clouds
I've been set free and I've been bound
And now I'm set free
I'm set free
I'm set free to find a new illusion

–L. Reed/The Velvet Underground


Our Souls To Keep explores the tumultuous and conflicting moral and behavioral rules that govern our society. As power structures once maintained in closely guarded realities become porous, attempts to impose borders and arcane laws become more absurd and the hypocrisy of control mechanisms more pornographic. As physical communities are replaced by algorithm networks, we face a vastness of information, amplifying the potential for both freedom and destruction. The artists on view investigate undercurrents of social control from the perspective of their own lived experiences, representing both a keen awareness of repression and a sense of personal awakening.


Many of the artists in Our Souls To Keep employ vernacular languages and outmoded processes to express the historical absurdities of American mythology. It is a nostalgia that invokes a sense of comfort, but not without hinting that it is all just a cover up, exposing a store-bought version of gender, race, and sexuality past its expiration date.  A growing cultural fascination with cults comes into play here. Such archetypal insular communities are symbolic of the ways social relationships can mold and change reality itself; of a kind of power that is particular and yet frighteningly familiar to those on the outside. The work reveals the corruption and hypocrisy behind systems of control without pretending that those systems are a mask that can be torn off. Neither cynical nor defeatist; human bodies, beliefs, and the act of expression itself ground the work, whether in the texture of daily life or in flights of imagination, reminding us that liberation itself is a human goal, located in our bodies and communities, and freedom, too, must reflect human history in all its tragedy and confusion. All of the artists in Our Souls To Keep confront the anxiety of our mutated and surveilled society with humor, historical analysis, insular languages, and revelations made in the private sanctuaries of art practice.

-Lissa Rivera


Guest Curator

Lissa Rivera, curator Museum of Sex, NY

Lissa Rivera is a photographer and curator based in NYC. Since 2016, Lissa Rivera has curated and produced exhibitions at the Museum of Sex, with a focus on contemporary art. As a curator, Rivera strives to include traditionally underrepresented voices regardless of formal education or exhibition history. Recent shows have been widely covered and celebrated in the media. Rivera has worked with collaborators including Marina Garcia-Vasquez of VICE Media and Frank Maresca of Ricco/Maresca Gallery. 

Rivera received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, where she became fascinated with the evolution of identity, sexuality and gender in relationship to material culture. ‘Beautiful Boy,’ Rivera’s latest project, takes her interest in photography’s connection with identity to a personal level, focusing on her domestic partner as muse. ‘Beautiful Boy’ received breakthrough success, with coverage in many publications, including the New York Times, Artforum and Harper’s Bazaar. Selected honors include the Magnum Photography Award for Portraiture. 

Earlier Event: June 1
Later Event: September 8
The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair