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The days of marble and bronze have long passed. These days, quarries are less likely to yield treasure than hallway closets—which is where Sarah Sze excavates the raw materials for her sculptures. The installation artist is fond of the everyday refuse most of us eagerly abandon. Sze sews together rulers, water bottles, and phonebooks into intricate assemblages that are impressively unwieldy, if not altogether on the verge of collapse. Devoid of any discernible structure, Sze’s pieces permeate their exhibit space—indifferent to the consternation of onlookers who must navigate around the sprawling components. Sze is based in New York and has exhibited on four continents; in 2003 she constructed the maze-like, six-story-tall “Second Means of Egress (Yellow)” at One Metro Center here in the District. Created at the junction of order and chaos, Sze’s work is fitting for a city steeped in a governmental gentility frequently upended by biennial political whirlwinds.

SZE SPEAKS AT 7 P.M. AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, 800 F ST. NW. FREE. (202) 633-7970.