A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload

International Center of Photography, New York, January 28 - May 2, 2022

Are there too many images in the world? Too many of the wrong kind? Too many that we don’t like or want or need? These feel like very contemporary questions, but they have a rich and fascinating history. A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload takes a long look at our worries and compulsive fascination with the proliferation of photographic images.

In the 1920s, with the rapid increase in illustrated magazines and daily newspapers, commentators asked whether society could survive the visual inundation. Artists looked to mass-media imagery and archives of all kinds to rethink the world around them.

The artists of Dada, surrealism, Pop, Situationism, Conceptualism, and Postmodernism were all, in different ways, horrified and mesmerized by the seemingly endless supply of images. They cast a critical eye over the clichés, stereotypes, and repetitive images, and looked to unearth alternative histories and counternarratives. From scrapbooks to internet memes, from collage and image appropriation to art made by algorithms, A Trillion Sunsets highlights unlikely parallels and connections across distinct decades.

Harry Callahan, Collage, ca. 1957. International Center of Photography, Gift of Louis F. Fox, 1980. © The Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace Gallery