Exhibition Review: “A Trillion Sunsets” at the International Center of Photography — PhotoSpark
A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload
The International Center of Photography | 79 Essex Street, New York, NY, 10002
Jan. 28-May 2, 2022
Since 2015, the number of individual photographic images created has surpassed one trillion each year. This number can be difficult to fathom — even the world population reaches only 7.9 billion. A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload, features 15 renowned photographic artists and considers the alarming question this recent influx of images may pose: are there too many photographs in the world?
The exhibition begins at the dawn of the 20th century, when artists working with photographs wrestled with the sheer volume of images. A number of vinyl facsimiles of Hannah Höch’s scrapbooks line the first few walls of the gallery — Höch’s image bank provides a glimpse into her obsessive collecting practice, one shared by many of her contemporaries. The requisite exploration of early 20th-century political photomontage work follows, with a twist: the work shown is, rather than state-sanctioned, critical of the rising fascist governments of the era.
The exhibition traces the lineage of photomontage from its origins to contemporary examples, including Justine Kurland’s collages which ruthlessly dismember books by white-male photographers, forcing the viewer to reckon not only with the status granted to these artists, but the notion that resequencing the information contained in these works can create a new paradigm with which to consider their context. Sheida Soleimani also uses the physical cutting of imagery to consider the relationship between images and their consequences. Soleimani writes, “In some ways, cutting is a violent act, so when I cut and resituate images, I try to situate this act in some sort of relationship to a photograph’s traumatic content, if that’s what I’m dealing with.”
The archival impulse is strong among photographic artists and is a common thread that runs through the exhibition as a whole. There is a theme of layering and gridding — from Barbara Morgan’s darkroom assemblages to Walker Evans’ classic photograph, Penny Picture Display; even works not strictly based in collage act as a kind of archive of images being assembled and disassembled, compared and contrasted. Works by Aaron Hegert and Emma Sheffer bring this impulse to the Post-Internet age by using AI learning and visual trend-tracking, respectively.
By embracing the image overload we face daily, A Trillion Sunsets creates a charged space in which its works can affect the viewer. The exhibition reaches beyond the dire implications of too many photographs in this world and may even provide us with a roadmap for moving forward — a warning to slow down, to think harder about the impact these photographs have and in what way they might be rearranged in both their form and meaning.
A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload is on view at the International Center of Photography in New York City from Jan. 28-May 2, 2022.
Originally published at https://www.photo-spark.com on February 17, 2022.