Subway Station Art: East Broadway Station

The subway station at East Broadway on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has a beautiful ceramic tile mural by artist Noel Copeland. Copeland was born in Jamaica, but he immigrated to the United States and received his art education at the Pratt Institute School of Art and Design. He currently lives in New York City, and he has several public art installations across New York City, located in public schools, public housing complexes, community centers, and public transportation stations.

The mural at East Broadway is titled Displacing Details and is 24 feet long. In creating the mural, Copeland drew inspiration from historic buildings on the Lower East Side. In 1991, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded Copeland the Arts for Transit Creative Station Award for Displacing Details.

Here are a few photos of the mural. The first one shows the panel in the middle, which I love. There’s also a great border that surrounds the entire mural and illustrates various architectural details.

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If you are interested in seeing Displacing Details yourself, take the F train to East Broadway. The mural is on the mezzanine level.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue-96th Street Station

A few weeks ago I wrote a couple of posts about some of the art on the new Second Avenue subway line (found here and here). Today, I want to introduce you to the installation at another Second Avenue station: artist Sarah Sze’s Blueprint for a Landscape, found at the 96th Street Station. A resident of New York City, Sarah Sze is also a professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Blueprint for a Landscape consists of a series of blue and white images, with different images for each of the station’s entrances. The color and style of the images draws inspiration from architectural blueprints. The themes include things commonly seen across New York City: sheets of paper blowing in the wind, scaffolding, trees and other landscaping, and birds.

The 96th Street station art is very different from that at the other stations, but still very interesting – particularly for those who have architectural interests. Here are some examples of what you will see if you visit the station.

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To see the art at the 96th Street station for yourself, take the Q train uptown to the end of the line.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue Line (Part II)

I’ve already written one post about the amazing new subway art at the 72nd Street subway station, which you can find here. Now, here is the second post in the series I’m writing about the new Second Avenue line’s incredible art installations. This time, let’s explore artist Chuck Close’s mosaic glass and ceramic tile series, known as Subway Portraits, which is located at the 86th Street station. Similar to the themes of the 72nd Street station’s art, Close’s oversized portraits reflect the diversity of New York City’s residents. At the same time, the artist also explores a variety of different techniques to portray each person. This station is another treat for those interested in the city’s public art.

Here are photographs of some of my favorite portraits from this station, as well as a few close-up photos showing some of the techniques Close used in creating them. I hope you enjoy!

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Want to see Subway Portraits for yourself? Take the Q train to the 86th Street station on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Portraits are located along the mezzanine level, as well as the areas extending from the mezzanine to each subway station entrance.

Subway Station Art: The New Second Avenue Line (Part I)

The New York City subway system doesn’t add new stations very often, but many New Yorkers have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Second Avenue subway line. The line, which for now only consists of three stations, has been on the drawing board for more than 100 years. It officially opened on January 1, 2017, and has increased access to Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

One exciting benefit of the opening of these three new stations is some new offerings in subway art as well. Each station is unique, and I plan to offer a tour of each one in the upcoming days. Our first tour is of the art installation at the 72nd Street station. Titled Perfect Strangers, the more than three dozen glass mosaic images by Vic Muniz celebrate the diversity of the people who live and work in the neighborhood that surrounds this subway station. As there is ongoing debate about the American president’s immigration policy, New Yorkers have stood united in the fact that we value diversity and treasure our immigrant friends, family, and neighbors. This weekend in particular, I thought that writing about artwork that emphasizes those positive values was important.

Here are some of my favorite parts of this installation. I’ve also added a few close-up views to give you a sense of the magnificent detail work. I’d love to include photos of them all, but that would make for a very long post! The glass tiles reflect a lot of light, making the images challenging to photograph.

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As you look down the stairs towards the platform, you may also spy the words, “E Pluribus Unum.” The motto of the United States, this Latin phrase means “Out of many, one.”

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If you’d like to see Perfect Strangers for yourself, take the Q train to 72nd Street. Most of the figures are located on the mezzanine level, but keep a sharp lookout in the areas between the street level and the mezzanine – there are more figures on every level, and tucked around a few corners as well!

Subway Station Art: 50th Street Station

In some ways, the 50th Street subway station is a little shabby, but if you look closer the station is home to some treasures. There are four glass mosaic murals, titled Alice: The Way Out, by Argentinian-born New York City artist Liliana Porter. If you are a fan of the classic children’s novel Alice in Wonderland you will appreciate these murals.

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There are also other subway tiles reflecting the influence of different eras in this subway station’s history, including the vintage terra cotta tile station sign and the more modern ceramic tile destination signs.

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If you would like to see these murals for yourself, the 50th Street Station is serviced by the 1 train.

Subway Station Art: 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station

One of my favorite subway stations in Manhattan is the 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station because of the beautiful glass tile mosaics spanning the walls along the train platform. Created by long-time New York City resident and artist Nancy Spero, the installation is titled Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers. Visitors can clearly see how the nearby Lincoln Center for the Arts inspired Spero’s art.

Here’s the description of the installation, originally found on MTA Arts & Design’s website:

This series of 22 brilliantly colored glass mosaic panels lines the walls of the station and bows to Lincoln Center’s opera, ballet, and classical music halls – and the vibrant, artistic character of the Upper West Side neighborhood. Spero conveys this through the use of iconic images of women both real and mythical, from such varied sources as archaeology, architecture, mythology and the contemporary world.

In Artemis, Acrobats, Divas, and Dancers, the central icon of opera, the Diva, is repeated in various forms that lead and follow riders through the station, giving the illusion of movement and change. Elsewhere, Spero represents scenes from the subway and the city outside, the architectural backgrounds enlivened by musicians performing and athletes running, signaling you are in a creative and energetic place, the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Here are some of my favorite images from the Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers installation. (There are numerous more images as well, which you can discover yourself if you visit the station!) As you can see below, the diversity of images and artistic styles makes this subway station art delightful.

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If you wish to see this subway art for yourself, take the 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Center Station on the Upper West Side. The mosaics are different on each platform, so make sure you check out both sides!

Subway Station Art: Houston Street Station

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Many New Yorkers (and visitors to NYC) rarely travel on the 1 train in the lower part of Manhattan, but there are some real treats on that line for those seeking subway station art. One of my favorite stations is the Houston Street station, home to artist Deborah Brown’s mosaics titled Platform Diving. I love the name of this installation. It plays off of two very different ideas that share common language. On the one hand, the installation stretches along a subway station platform, and it includes platform and subway car images. But platform diving is also an aquatic sport, and the mosaics show these subway station images underwater, with sea creatures floating through the scenes. The blues and greens of the glass tiles create a series of 7 beautiful, serene murals that are worth taking a detour to the station solely to see the art.

Here are some photos of the mosaics. The photos give you a sense of what makes this installation so appealing, but the mosaics are even more special if you get the opportunity to see them in person.

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The station also has some good examples of the vintage mosaic tilework that set each station apart during the early decades of the subway system’s existence. In addition to the “Houston” signs featured in the first photo in this post, you can also find these details.

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Want to see the Houston Street station subway station’s art for yourself? Regardless of which way you are traveling on the 1 train, you can see part of the installation. The southbound platform is host to 4 of the Platform Diving murals, and the other 3 are located on the northbound platform.

Subway Station Art: World Trade Center and Chambers Street Stations

I recently wrote about the Oculus, MTA’s new transportation hub located next to the World Trade Center site. But there is actually an art installation that predates this transportation hub that is also titled the Oculus – and it is located nearby, in the World Trade Center, Chambers Street, and Park Place subway stations. This art project began with the efforts of photographers Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginzel, who photographed the eyes of hundreds of New Yorkers. Then, artist Rinaldo Piras recreated the eyes in stone mosaics.

There are 300 unique eyes scattered throughout the connected subway stations, and it’s a fun challenge to hunt them down. (Amazingly, the mosaics were hardly disturbed in the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.) I love this description of the Oculus by the artists, found on MTA Art & Design’s website: “Oculus was created to personalize and integrate the stations. Eyes are both subtle and strong – they engage passing individuals, allowing for meditation or inviting dialogue.”

Here are a few of my favorites.

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The installation also includes a large floor mosaic, which includes an eye in the center with a world map that extends outwards. It’s not easy to photograph, but here’s my best attempt.

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If you’d like to see the Oculus installation yourself, it is easily accessible at several subway stations. Take the E to the World Trade Center station, the A or C to the Chambers Street station, or the 2 or 3 to the Park Place station.

Subway Station Art: Lexington Avenue/53rd Street Station

For those interested in abstract art, the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street subway station offers a real treat: mosaic murals created by Brooklyn-born artist Al Held. Titled “Passing Through,” what makes this art even more special is that it was one of Held’s last works, designed in 2004 but actually finished after his death in 2005.

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The MTA Arts & Design website contains the following description of “Passing Through”:

The colorful and exuberant mural reveals an immense universe in which geometric elements of varying shapes and sizes float freely. In the 1960s, Held moved from abstraction to tightly controlled geometric work, with two-dimensional figures suspended on the canvas. Held was curious about how everything is structured and was inspired by theories about the universe and its mysteries. He described his interest in “images that we believe in but that are beyond our senses and that we can never experience directly.” There is also another subject, that of buildings and architecture. His imagery powerfully evokes New York City’s contemporary energy while acknowledging the forms and styles of the Midtown skyscrapers overhead.

The mosaics are colorful, brightening up a corridor that otherwise would seem dull and dreary. The undulating walls upon which the glass mosaic tiles are fixed really add to the visual effect.

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Want to view “Passing Through” for yourself? Take the E or M train to the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street station, and follow the signs towards the Lexington Avenue exit. (If you exit towards Third Avenue, you will miss the mosaics.) You will know you are headed in the right direction if the signs also show that you are headed towards the 6 train. The mosaics are located on the mezzanine level. If you are traveling on the 6 train, get off at the 51st Avenue station. That station connects underground to the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street station.

NYC’s Oculus: Architecture as Sculpture

Most people know that on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center’s twin towers were destroyed. What many don’t realize is that there was an important set of transportation routes, located underground in that same area, that were also seriously damaged. In the years since that day, New York City has worked to rebuild the World Trade Center site, including those transportation routes. One of the most recent efforts was the opening of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub this year.The Transportation Hub links the PATH train platforms, where commuters arrived from the neighboring state of New Jersey, and numerous subway lines.

The main feature of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub is the Oculus, the above-ground structure that covers the station and underground shopping area. Designed by Spanish artitect Santiago Calatrava, the structure has structural “wings” that extend over the site, although many critics think that it looks like oversized dinosaur bones. (Most commonly, people say it looks like a Stegosaurus.)

Here’s one perspective of the World Trade Center site. You can see the white “wing” of the Oculus in the foreground. The tall building behind it is One World Trade Center, also commonly known as the Freedom Tower. Other parts of the World Trade Center complex are still under construction.

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Although the Oculus has had its share of controversy (not everyone appreciates the design, it took much longer to complete than anticipated, and it came in way over budget), its striking architectural details make for interesting photos. Here are a few photos of the outside of the Oculus, showing how changing the camera angles features different aspects of the structure’s architecture.

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The inside of the Oculus is equally photogenic. The building is full of light, which makes the white marble almost glow. When you look down from the top balcony to the lowest level, the people below almost seem to be moving across an ice skating rink.

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The best way to get to the Oculus is by public transportation. Visitors can take the PATH train from New Jersey. If traveling by subway, you can take an E train to the World Trade Center station, the R train to the Cortlandt station, the 4, 5, J, or Z trains to Fulton Center, or the 1, 2, 3, A, or C train to the Chambers station.

Note: If you visit the Oculus, the National September 11 Museum and Memorial are located nearby and are definitely worth visiting.