As Long as the Sun Shines, Alex Da Corte
After a year of depression, this brightly colored stainless steel, aluminum, and fibreglass installation representing Sesame Street’s Big Bird swinging on a crescent moon is exactly what the doctor ordered. It’s a bird, a gigantic bird, that countless millions of people around the world who grew up watching Sesame Street, the five-decade-long children’s television show, will recognize as Big Bird.
However, instead of bright yellow, their cherished companion has blue plumage, which resembles the color of the character’s South American relative, Garibaldo, whom Alex Da Corte (b1980, Camden, New Jersey) first saw on Sesame Street when he was a child in Venezuela. It may also remind us of the 1985 film Follow that Bird, in which our lovely feathered friend was abducted by crooked, humorously stupid (and literal-minded) circus owners who painted him blue as a disguise and to coordinate with the other animals in the circus.
I`m so Blue
It may also bring to mind the 1985 film Follow that Bird, in which our beautiful feathered friend was abducted by corrupt, humorously inept (and literal-minded) circus owners who painted him blue as a disguise and to match the song they forced him to sing, I’m So Blue. (I say “he,” but how does Big Bird nowadays identify: he/him; they/them; it?) Da Corte has long been obsessed with Jim Henson and the Muppets, so making the genial Big Bird the quixotic hero of his latest installation, As Long as the Sun Lasts,
Like the boy in the DreamWorks logo
seems almost predetermined. Big Bird is perched gallantly, if somewhat precariously, within the curve of a yellow crescent moon (like the boy in the DreamWorks logo, who casts his fishing rod into space), scanning the changing horizon for this most recent edition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s popular outdoor installation series on the Cantor Roof Garden. He also appears to be lonely without his Muppet pals, as many of us have felt this year without ours.
Big Bird is given a small ladder to wield as if it were a shield or an attribute by Da Corte, an object that is no longer technically novel but is tried and true, with historical and metaphoric implications. A purposefully DIY rendition of an Alexander Calder mobile/stabile combo, with a base that evokes a sort of launchpad or plastic preschool gym, from which many a tot (and perhaps future astronaut) has courageously self-launched, holds the piece aloft.
Slice of moon
The rods that balance Big Bird on his slice of moon against five metal discs, four whirling under an upright yolky circle, limit his flying pattern. They resemble planets orbiting tyhe sun, all connected and activated by random air currents as they circle the sun.
The maraschino cherry base
The installation, which is made of stainless steel, aluminum, and fiberglass, is boldly colored in Calderesque primaries that are slightly skewed — one disc is more robin’s-egg blue and the base is more maraschino cherry than a classic de Stijl blue or red, for example, another example of Da Corte making the familiar less familiar.
Da Corte’s replica of Calder’s signature
The entire ensemble is 26 feet (eight metres) tall, and this Big Bird appears to be around the same size as the original at slightly over 8 feet). The feathers of this bird, however, are composed of 7,000 laser-cut aluminum plaques (estimated by Sesame Street’s arithmomaniac Count?) to survive outdoor conditions. Da Corte’s replica of Calder’s signature and the number 69 are written on the base.
It was the year that Jim Henson’s Muppets first appeared on Sesame Street, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and what modernist idealists said would be a “great leap” forward for “mankind.” This free-form, surprising, and at times dangerous mashup of cultural icons, company logos, art history, history, and more acts as imaginative detonations, igniting a slew of small perceptual and critical fires.
A short fiction about cosmic adventurers
The fairly ominous title, which comes from an Italo Calvino short fiction about cosmic adventurers searching the universe for a new planetary home, prioritizes the sun over the moon. After all, the duration of the former determines the fate of our part of the cosmic neighborhood.
A reflections on existence
Calvino’s eccentric, often metaphysical reflections on existence and the space/time continuum, as well as a slew of other science fiction and fabulist yarns, are skilfully linked to the themes of Da Corte’s installation, invoking the environmental, existential, eschatological, playful, compassionate, and sorrowful.
The crenellated Manhattan skyline
As Long as the Sun Lasts is expected to draw large audiences, drawn not only by Big Bird, but also by a desire to go out and about again, to experience art in person, surrounded by a beautiful panorama of a greening Central Park framed by the crenellated Manhattan skyline.
The Sun Also Rises
As New York and the rest of the world recover after more than a year of sadness and uncertainty, we may all enjoy the joy of a toddler who skipped around the terrace, so glad to be outside under a blue sky and see his Sesame Street companion. While we’re at it, let’s recall a more well-known title: The Sun Also Rises – at least for the time being.