David Bowie Is Here: A Subway Station Installation

I often write about the public art in NYC subway stations, but the recent David Bowie installation in the Broadway – Lafayette subway station in Manhattan was a real treat. The installation, titled David Bowie Is Here, celebrated Bowie’s life and music in New York City. It was meant to draw attention to a David Bowie exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Unfortunately, the subway station installation just ended, but the museum exhibition continues until July 15.

Everywhere you looked in the station there was something to see – photographs representing Bowie’s albums and career, quotes about his views of living in New York City, even song lyrics on the station steps! There was also a map showing locations where Bowie lived and worked in the neighborhood surrounding the station. For anyone who loved David Bowie’s music, the installation was a real treat!

Here are some of the images I captured of the installation, but there were many more.

At some point, I’ll go to the points on the map and write a post about what I find. I’m also hoping to make it to the Brooklyn Museum exhibition before it closes!

Subway Station Art: Grand Army Plaza Station

The art in the subway station at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn is both distinctive and beautiful. The installation, titled Wings for the IRT: The Irresistible Romance of Travel, is by artist and public-interest lawyer Jane Greengold.

Ms. Greengold has provided the following explanation of Wings for the IRT:

This project is based on the sculpture on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza, the dominant structure in the Plaza above the station. On the arch, winged victories lead in a chariot bearing Columbia, symbol of the victory of the North in the Civil War. In a subway station, commuters most want to celebrate the arrival of the train, so here, the victories lead in a train. The original logo for the IRT was a winged train, so I used the old-fashioned train and banner from that logo, thus making the image about both the surrounding neighborhood and the subway system itself. At each entrance to the station there is also an individual winged victory, and a small bronze plaque based on a winged woman from the stone work on the Arch.

Unfortunately, I somehow missed the one tile piece that included the train with the winged victories, but you can see an image of it here. I did find these lovely terra cotta tile wing victories however, as well as smaller bronze works.

If you want to see this beautiful art for yourself, the 4 and 5 trains go to Grand Army Plaza station. Once you’ve had the chance to see the art, head above ground to explore the park above.

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: Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station

I’ve written before about the Second Avenue subway line, which opened for the first time on January 1 of this year. Each of the three new stations has unique public art. (I wrote about those stations here, here, and here.) The new subway line connects with the rest of the system at the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station. When the new platform was added at that station, a new entrance was added as well at 3rd Avenue and 63rd Street. MTA Arts & Design added art on three levels: first, on the platform level next to the elevators from the platform to the mezzanine; second, on the mezzanine level; and third, at the street level. All of the art celebrates the old elevated train line that was demolished in 1942.

First, the platform level. There’s a semi-transparent set of panels separating the elevator area from one end of the track. Superimposed upon those panels are stylized photographs of the old elevated train line.

On the mezzanine level is my favorite art at this station, artist Jean Shin’s installation, Elevated. Shin’s work on this level focuses on the people in the neighborhood who would have been the elevated train’s riders before its demolition.

Finally, at the street level are more of Shin’s mosaics – these showing the girders that held up the old elevated line’s tracks being torn down.

If you’d like to see this subway station art for yourself, you can take the F or Q to the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station. Make sure you enter or exist from the 3rd Avenue entrance/exit, as the Lexington Avenue entrance/exit does not provide access to this art.

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: The 1 Train’s 86th Street Station

I write about art in New York City subway stations fairly regularly; the art at the 1 train’s 86th Street station should be on the list of places to visit if you have an interest in public art in subway stations. Once you arrive on the station’s platforms, you will discover a series of 40 ceramic glazed tiles, each with an image of life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Titled Westside Views, the project was a collaboration between artist Nitza Tufiño and 17 young people, mostly from the Grosvenor Community House educational programs in the neighborhood.

The project was very successful. Here is what Nitza Tufiño had to say about it: “As an artist, if I take my brushes and my skills and I invest in the lives of young people, then others can see what is possible … I believe human beings can do anything, if we find something that would positively influence them.”

Here are some examples of the Westside Views artwork.

So what is your favorite? I have several. The clown made me laugh (although I find clowns a bit creepy). I love the dads pushing their kids in strollers, as well as the last one with the hot dog stand.

Subway Station Art: 125th Street Station

One of my favorite subway stations, in terms of art, is the 125th Street Station in Harlem. Artist Faith Ringgold’s mosaic murals, titled Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines, draws from the neighborhoods rich history and culture of her birthplace. The art is colorful and distinctive – there’s no chance that you will think you are anywhere other than Harlem.

Each section of the murals has an image of an iconic example of Harlem architecture (some no longer in existence), as well as historical figures associated with Harlem’s African-American history. For example, here’s the famous Apollo Theater, with images of Dinah Washington, Florence Mills, Ralph Cooper, Billie Holliday, and the Ink Spots.

Upon closer inspection, the murals details are spectacular.

This next one includes the Cotton Club, a nightclub from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as performers Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith, who performed at the Cotton Club regularly. (I learned in my research that the establishment unfortunately illustrated the highly segregated society of that era – although African-Americans performed at the venue, only whites were allowed in as customers.)

Here’s the Harlem Opera House, with soprano Mariam Anderson and singer and actor Paul Robeson.

And Yankee Stadium, with boxers Joe Lewis and Sugar Ray Robinson overhead.

Here’s Madame Walker’s Beauty Parlor, with Madame C.J. Walker hovering over it herself, next to Olympian Jesse Owens. Notably, Owens appears to be jumping out of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Marcus Garvey and Adam Clay Powell, Jr. float over the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

And Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rise above the Theresa Hotel, at one time known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.”

Here’s W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, associated with organizations they founded –  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), and the National Council of Negro Women (N.C.N.W.).

Above the Schomburg Library, a New York Public Library Center devoted to the study of African-American history, literature, and culture, you’ll find writers Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston.

And Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Aaron Douglas keep the Studio Museum of Harlem company.

Finally, you’ll find tile work related to the station itself, including the historic 125th Street terra cotta station signs and trim, as well as a rather out-of-place modern mosaic and tile sign.

If you’d like to see Flying Home in person, take the 2 or 3 train to the 125th Street Station in Manhattan.

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: 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.