Staring at the Sun
Curated by Christina Cuthbertson
Artists: David Hoffos, Alison Nguyen, Corinne Thiessen
CP Projects Space, 132 West 21st Street, 10th floor, New York, NY
“We have really only that one light, one source for all power, and yet we must turn away from it by universal decree. Nobody here on the planet seems aware of that strange, powerful taboo, that we all walk about carefully averting our faces, this way and that, lest our eyes be blasted forever.” – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Staring at the Sun is an exhibition that explores expressions of rupture and devotion in the work of David Hoffos, Alison Nguyen, and Corinne Thiessen. Though their practices differ, these three artists engage the luring and dangerous pull of the mass-media image—a phenomenon that sustains and harms us in equal measure. In this sense, it is like the sun: its massiveness creating an orbit around which we revolve. We worship it, absorb its energy, and yet, if we look too long, we may be blinded by its light. Nor can we turn away from it completely. We survive by the glow of these flickering images.
The artists in this exhibition explore this contrast through the visual language of rupture and devotion. David Hoffos’s Collage Series 17 (2017) emerges from the utopian visions of vintage advertisements. He painstakingly shreds and re-assembles these images to construct works that at first glance appear blurred and on closer inspection become jarring and grotesque. Two works by Alison Nguyen, you can’t plan a perfect day sometimes it just happens (2017) and every dog has its day (2019), were made from her personal archives of found footage. Using repetition and montage, Nguyen explores ideas of glory and representation in the moving image. Finally, Corinne Thiessen’s Any Doubts? (2020), uses paint to disrupt stock images found in magazine ads to reveal the cultish absurdity that lurks just below the surface of these seemingly benign photographs. In addition to depictions of rupture and devotion, these notions are also deeply embedded into the material practices of these three artists. Through obsessive collecting and repetition, Hoffos, Nguyen, and Thiessen demonstrate a kind of reverence for the media image. There is careful responsiveness in their disruptions; a respect for the sustaining and dangerous pull of this powerful phenomenon.