Starting tomorrow, April 16, visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan will be able to find their way to Sesame Street. This year’s Roof Garden Commission from irreverent Philadelphia-based pop artist Alex Da Corte combines Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles and Big Bird himself to create a dreamy, kinetic structure. As Long as the Sun Lasts is a mashup of multiple dichotomies; pop culture and high-art, immobile and moving, hard and soft, heaviness and delicate lines, and nostalgia and reinterpretation.
The 26-foot-tall sculpture rests on a base made from three interlocking orange steel pieces, reminiscent of a “Little Tikes playset,” according to the museum, that stretches skyward in the shape of a rocket. Then, a blue Big Bird (both a reference to the kindly but rather scary-looking Garibaldo, who Da Corte grew up watching on the Brazilian version of Sesame Street in Venezuela, and the 1985 movie Follow That Bird, where Big Bird is kidnapped and painted blue), balances a spinning set of mobiles on the opposite side, it too capable of swaying in the breeze.
The Big Bird sculpture is As Long as the Sun Lasts’ obvious focal point, and Da Corte took great pains to render the typically soft feathers using 7,000 laser-cut aluminum shingles, all installed by hand. The ladder in Big Bird’s hand, the moon that he sits on, and his gaze towards the heavens are all meant to suggest looking toward the future and on to bigger and better things (or perhaps aspirationally toward the supertall towers fronting the museum).
“Alex Da Corte’s bold work for the Cantor Roof Garden oscillates between joy and melancholy, and brings a playful message of optimism and reflection,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, in a press release. “The installation, which the artist initiated just as the pandemic was taking hold, invites us to look through a familiar, popular, modern lens at our own condition in a transformed emotional landscape. As the sculpture gently rotates in the wind, it calls us in an assuring way to pause and reflect: We are reminded that stability is an illusion, but ultimately what we see is a statement of belief in the potential of transformation.”
Even the title of the installation builds on that tension between past and future, serious and fantastic; As Long as the Sun Lasts is drawn from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, a series of absurd short stories built around singular scientific facts.
Da Corte’s installation draws to mind the Met’s 2019 Roof Garden Commission, the similarly space-themed, but more restrained, ParaPivot I and ParaPivot II from Polish-German artist Alicja Kwade. Although his work isn’t an explicit enclosure of the Manhattan skyline like Kwade’s was, both integrated heavier components tactfully balanced on narrow frames, and both tried to bring the heavens down to earth.
As Long as the Sun Lasts will remain on display through October 31.