Subway Station Art: Christopher Street Station

It’s been quite some time since I last featured some of New York City’s wonderful subway art, so I thought I thought I would show you the mosaics at the Christopher Street station today. These twelve mosaics, collectively known as “The Greenwich Village Murals,” show some of the interesting and diverse history of the Greenwich Village neighborhood surrounding this station. They were created by ceramic artist Lee Grozwol, in collaboration with fifth and six grade students from a local school (Public School 41).

The murals are divided into four sets of three murals each, with the following subtitles: Bohemians, Founders, Providers, and Rebels. There is a key for each set of murals on the wall nearby, helping visitors to identify each person featured in the murals.

For example, here are the Founders:

And here is the key for that set of murals:

Here are the Providers:

Here are the Bohemians:

And finally, here are the Rebels.

Want to see these wonderful mosaic murals in person? Take the 1 train to the Christopher Street station. There are different panels on each platform, so you will have to switch sides to see them all.

Subway Station Art: Kosciuszko Street Station

Recently I was hunting for street art in Brooklyn and took a subway line I don’t normally travel. In the part of Brooklyn I was in, the line goes above ground, and as we approached the Kosciuszko Street station I spotted a mural on a nearby building. Although I originally intended to travel a station or two further, I decided to go ahead and get off the train here. And was I glad that I did! Not only did I find numerous murals in the vicinity of the station, I actually found some subway station art I hadn’t discovered before as well.

The Kosciuszko Street station is home to a series of 16 stained glass windows designed by artist Ronald Calloway. Collectively, the installation is called Euphorbias. Upon further research, I discovered that Euphorbia refers to a “large genus of plants in the spurge family.”

The MTA Arts & Design website provides this description of Calloway’s Euphorbias:

In Euphorbias, the artist used botanical imagery as a metaphor for life and growth in the communities that surround the elevated Kosciuszko Street station. The artwork … creates the sensation of growth, as if energy is radiating outward from the center of the images to the tips of the forms. Brightly colored plants, some of which resemble the sun and its rays, are in full bloom on the platform.

Here are some examples of what you will find at the station.

 

Want to see Euphorbias for yourself? Just take the J train into Brooklyn to the Kosciuszko Street station.

Subway Station Art: Houston Street Station

img_7267

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.

img_6685

img_6689

img_6692

img_7260

img_6681

img_7263

img_7272

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.

img_7264

img_6688

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: 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.

img_3916

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.

img_3918

img_3917

img_3911

img_3909

img_3907

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.

IMG_6125

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.

IMG_6127

IMG_6134

IMG_6123

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.

IMG_6136

IMG_6137

IMG_6141

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.

NYC’s Underground Museum: Subway Station Art at Times Square

As I’ve written about before on numerous occasions, New York City has a robust arts program throughout its subway system. (You can see those other posts by clicking the “Transportation” link on the right-hand side of the blog.) By far, the largest and most diverse collection of subway station art in the city is located at the Times Square-42nd Street station in Manhattan. In fact, the art offerings at this station qualify it as an underground museum in my estimation, worth the time it will take to meander all parts of the station to discover hidden gems.

So let me take you on a tour of this “underground museum.” First, be on the lookout for “Losing My Marbles,” a set of fun, colorful glass mosaic walls by artist Lisa Dinhofer. This artwork is located on the mezzanine level near the A/C/E platforms.

DSC05252

DSC05255

DSC05257

Another glass mosaic mural, “New York in Transit,” is located over a stairwell connecting the mezzanine level to the N/Q/R platforms. The artist, Jacob Lawrence, came of age in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and is known for his pioneering contributions to documenting African-American history through art. The angles makes it hard to get good photos of the entire mural, as the glass tiles reflect the light, but I was able to get a good close-up photo.

DSC05381

DSC05383

Nearby is this mural by iconic pop art artist Roy Lichtenstein, titled “Times Square Mural, 2002.” Once again, to spot this mural you have to look up!

DSC05375

DSC05380

DSC05378

At the mezzanine level near the 7 train platform you will find two glass mosaic tile murals by artist Jack Beal, titled “The Onset of Winter” and “The Return of Spring.” These murals portray scenes of vintage New York City life near the subway station.

DSC05330

DSC05333

DSC05326

DSC05328

DSC05329

In a corridor between the 1/2/3/ and S platforms you will find 35 small vibrant ceramic panels by artist Toby Buonagurio. This installation is titled “Times Square Times: 35 Times.” Here are a few of my favorites.

DSC05356

DSC05362

DSC05366

DSC05390

In the corridors connecting the A/C/E platforms to the rest of the Times Square-42nd Street station, there a series of more than 60 glass mosaic works by artist Jane Dickson called “The Revelers.” The mosaics bring the spirit of New Year’s Eve at Times Square underground. Here are a few of my favorites.

DSC05288

DSC05305

DSC05307

DSC05316

DSC05320

Finally, there is this unique installation, a poem written by Norman B. Colp titled “The Commuter’s Lament,” or “A Close Shave.” In creating this installation, Colp drew inspiration from vintage roadside advertising campaigns by a company called Burma-Shave, which had catchy slogans printed on a series of signs along the side of roads. You’ll find “The Commuter’s Lament” in a long corridor near the A/C/E platform. Make sure you look up as you walk – otherwise you’ll miss the lines of the poem as they are attached to ceiling beams. It’s not in the most pristine condition, as it’s been up since 1991, but it is still a lot of fun.

DSC05267

DSC05280

Here is the full text of “The Commuter’s Lament”:

Overslept,

So tired.

If late,

Get fired.

Why bother?

Why the pain?

Just go home

Do it again.

The tone of the poem has been controversial, as some people believe that Colp was too negative about life in New York City. For most New Yorkers though, it realistically expresses the often tiring daily commute in a wry, yet humorous way. (I fall into the second category, by the way!)

The Times Square station is large and sprawling, with platforms connected by ramps, stairways, and long corridors stretching multiple city blocks underground. Taking any of these trains will get you there: the A, C, E, N, Q, R, 1, 2, 3, 7, or S (shuttle). Technically, the A, C, and E station is the 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal station, but it is fully connected to the Times Square station.

Subway Station Art: Whitehall Street Station

I’ve written a number of posts about New York City’s great subway art, and the Whitehall Street Station, located at the southern tip of Manhattan, is yet another station with some great public art. Known as Passages, this exhibition by artist Frank Giorgini was commissioned by MTA Arts & Design in 2000. Giorgini specializes in making handmade ceramic tiles, and this exhibition illustrates his talents.

MTA’s website provides this description of Passages:

For the restoration of the Whitehall Street subway station, Frank Giorgioni designed elements in ceramic, stone and metal to blend with the historic fabric of the station, such as the original bands of mosaic tile work. The cityscape begin at the entrance of the station with a view of the city today and then travel backward through time, through the age of steamships, a montage of New Amsterdam, the arrival of the first settlers, and finally the era before European settlement, with Native American canoes and a marshland of flora and fauna. In another area, schools of fish are seen, in both two- and three-dimensional form, accompanying a mosaic of sea and sky. Railings in the area are in the form of cattails, capping Giorgioni’s homage to the past.

When you get off the train, you must walk up a flight of stairs to an intermediate landing. Make sure that you look around carefully on this level, as there is already interesting art to see. A lovely glass and ceramic tile mosaic mural, in tones of blue and white, are located behind a metal railing on this level.

IMG_4927

I didn’t realize that the metal bars in front of the seagulls looked like cattails until I read the description on MTA’s website. But if you look closer, you can see the cattail design on the top of the bars in this photo, with the seagulls behind it.

IMG_4930

If you don’t look closely, you may miss another piece of art in this location. See anything else in the photo above? Look closely at the bottom left corner, behind the bars. If you step up to the cat-tails and look down towards the steel beams below, you will see this metal fish sculpture.

IMG_4929

If you glance around, you will also see the station’s mosaic tile signs directing travelers for the correct platform. I always love these vintage signs!

IMG_4948

IMG_4949

There’s an escalator that takes travelers from the intermediate landing to the upper mezzanine level. You will find original ceramic plaques depicting scenes from New York City history as the escalator carries you along. It’s a little difficult to capture good photos on a moving escalator, but here are a few of my favorites. It’s incredible to see the three-dimensional details Giorgini has created with these ceramic tiles. The ones I’ve shown show marshland before European arrival, explorer Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon, ferries, and skyscrapers next to Battery Park.

IMG_4947

 

IMG_4944

IMG_4953

IMG_4954

To get to the Whitehall Street Station, take the R train to the southern tip of Manhattan. Nearby, you can catch the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island, stroll around Battery Park or take the boat to the Statue of Liberty, or even walk a short distance to the National Museum of the American Indian.

Subway Station Art – Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue Station

Visitors to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue train station in Brooklyn are in for a real treat – artist and theater director/designer Robert Wilson’s art installation, My Coney Island Baby (2003). Wilson explored archival images of Coney Island’s holiday trip and amusement park history in his screen-printed works, which span a glass brick wall stretching approximately 370 feet along one side of the station.

The station is entirely above ground, as the subway lines are elevated in this part of Brooklyn. The glass wall brings a lot of light into the station, drawing visitors’ attention to Wilson’s colorful and imaginative images.

Some images show Coney Island’s long history as an entertainment destination, with its amusement parks and carnival-style “freak” shows.

IMG_5511

IMG_5508

IMG_5534

IMG_5544

IMG_5559

Others show delightful vintage shots of life in a beach town.

IMG_5537

IMG_5520

IMG_5529

IMG_5533

I particularly loved this sweet image of children surrounding a float ring, possibly swimming in the ocean or lounging on the beach.

IMG_5521

Finally, there is a giant hot dog – the food most associated with Coney Island. In fact, you can visit the original location for Nathan’s Famous, which began selling hot dogs at Coney Island 100 years ago, in 1916, for only 5 cents each. Somehow this image doesn’t exactly fit with the style of the others, but it is still fun and part of Coney Island’s history. (Don’t expect a 5-cent hot dog from Nathan’s today though – the last time I checked the hot dogs ranged in price from $4.25 to $4.99, depending on toppings.)

IMG_5539

To get to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue Station, take the D, F, N, or Q train. The art is on the ground level.

Subway Station Art – 8th Street Station

IMG_2634

The 8th Street subway station in New York City, located near New York University, offers some great subway art. A series of 40 mosaics, designed by artist Tim Snell, are scattered along the platforms in both directions. Snell, a Canadian artist who is now based in New York City, was inspired by local street scenes. Collectively, the mosaics are titled Broadway Diaries.

Here are some of my favorite mosaics from Broadway Diaries.

IMG_2637

IMG_2644

IMG_2653

IMG_2655

IMG_2639

The 8th Street station also has some great vintage mosaic directional signs that are not part of Broadway Diaries.

IMG_2656

IMG_2665

You will even see both styles together.

IMG_2641

IMG_2645

IMG_2660

You can get to the 8th Street subway station on either the R or the N trains. The station is located on Broadway, with entrances at 8th Street and Astor Place.

Views from the Roosevelt Island Tram

A great way to get a unique perspective of New York City is to take the Roosevelt Island Tram. The tram stretches from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island, which is located between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens in the middle of the East River. Originally constructed in 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tram allowed commuters to travel between the island and Manhattan before the island’s subway station was completed. At that time, it was the first aerial tramway for commuters on the North American continent.

IMG_3336

During the four-to-five minute ride across the river, there’s a number of different viewpoints. The best views are on the side of the tram closest to the bridge, near the glass – especially if you want to take photos. Getting a good spot to take photos can be a little more difficult, but not impossible, if the tram is very crowded.

Because the tramway stretches alongside the Queensboro Bridge, there are some interesting views of some of the bridge details. (Even if the bridge is not as beautiful as some of the other New York City Bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. And even if there are spots on the tram window!)

IMG_3367

There’s the chance to take a photo of the other tram, passing by as it travels the opposite direction.

IMG_3345

If you look over the tops of the Manhattan buildings, you should catch a glimpse of the tops of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in the distance.

IMG_3351

There’s a great view of the street below, if you watch for it, as well as some beautiful roof gardens and balconies.

IMG_3355

Of course, it’s impossible to miss the traffic!

IMG_3360

And there are definitely views of some of the water towers on top of buildings, another iconic image in New York City.

IMG_3358

Next to the tram station on Roosevelt Island, you will find the Queensboro Bridge Trolley Kiosk, a visitor center sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. The Trolley Kiosk has information about the island’s history and landmarks, as well as some fun souvenirs.

IMG_3374

In order to ride the tram, visitors must purchase a Metrocard at any subway station or from a vending machine at one of the tram stations. A one-way ride costs $2.75, the same price as a ride on the subway or city bus. (You also must pay $1.00 for the card itself, but it can be reloaded over and over.) If you already have a weekly or monthly pass, it costs nothing extra to ride the tram. In Manhattan, you can catch the Roosevelt Island Tram at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. On Roosevelt Island, the tram station is located right next to the Queensboro Bridge, a block away from the Roosevelt Island subway station, where you can catch the F train.