The Museum of Modern Art's four-story central atrium poses a daunting problem for artists tapped to fill it, because it's virtually impossible to fill. Most make light of this fact: last winter Allora & Calzadilla made a grand piano look tiny rolling around its vast floor; in 2009, Song Dong spread his mother's house and all her belongings out on the ground, the soaring white walls dwarfing a collection of objects amassed over a half-century. But nobody has come so close to filling the entire towering space as Brazilian sculptor and installation artist Carlito Carvalhosa does with "Sum of Days" (2010), a humongous architectural installation that's both void and volume, vast and weightless. The installation, on view through November 14th, has the form of a Richard Serra spiral sculpture, the color and weight of thick fog, and completely unique experiential qualities. Made of a white, lightweight and translucent cloth called non-tissue tissue, "Sum of Days" consists of a 60-foot-tall labyrinth of sorts, with two paths between the swaying material leading to a large central space that shrinks whenever a sufficiently substantial breeze blows through. Four suspended microphones record sounds in 24-hour cycles, replaying them the following day on dozens of speakers that hang above viewers' heads, creating the compounded audio canopy of the piece's title. Beginning September 8th, a series of live musical performances, to be announced on Twitter, will punctuate the accumulating ambient soundtrack.
Stepping away from Carvalhosa's installation one gets a sense of its immensity: reaching from the ceiling to within an inch of the floor, it would make a good mosquito net for a giant. It fills the atrium while creating a kind of empty space at its center. "This is a piece about memory," Carvalhosa explained during a preview. "It's about what happens when you take away the things you use to orient yourself." With few distinguishing features save the vertical seams where rolls of non-tissue tissue are joined, traveling through "Sum of Days" can feel like being underwater looking up, or waking from deep sleep. The piece's verticality is never overbearing, though, especially with light from rudimentary fluorescent tubes mounted on nearby walls filtering through its mesh-like layers. All billowing forms and gentle, swaying curves, it evokes sculptural architecture, and architectural sculptures: Serra, of course, but also the undulating façades of Frank Gehry, the rounded walls of Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut chapel, and Shigeru Ban's Curtain Wall House. Like such works of spatial trickery, Carvalhosa's "Sum of Days" fills a monumental space while creating a dramatic yet monastic interior chamber of its own.
(Photo: Carlito Carvalhosa, "Sum of Days," (2010). Courtesy MoMA)