The Art of the Morning Commute

Joanne Artman Gallery
Dec 12, 2018 6:31PM

Commuting isn’t one of the more enjoyable aspects of life in New York City, but thanks to the MTA and public art advocates, it is becoming more visually appealing. In recent station renovations, the completed projects reveal public artworks designed by world renowned and local artists alike.

Chuck Close, Self Portrait, 86th Street 2nd Avenue Station, Image Courtesy Hyperallergic

Internationally acclaimed painter Chuck Close created twelve large-scale portraits for the recently opened 86th Street 2nd Avenue subway station. Based on Close’s meticulously rendered paintings that feature a variety of innovative techniques within a grid, the mosaic installations represent the variety of individuals that pass though the MTA system. Including cultural figures such Kara Walker, Alex Katz, Cindy Sherman, and Lou Reed, the series also features two self-portraits of Close.

191st Street IRT-Broadway Station Entrance, Image Courtesy Wikipedia

191st Street IRT-Broadway Station Tunnel, Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Cultivating local talent, 4 different artists and one artist team were selected to revitalize the 191st Street station. Infamous for a long pedestrian tunnel that was notorious for crime and violence, the newly lit and colorful graffiti tunnel has transformed the station into a point of interest while also strengthening community ties to the artwork and to the tunnel. The vibrant passageway features five graffiti murals by Queen Andrea, Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, Cekis, Nick Kuszy, and Cope2. Deterring crime and beautifying the public area, the 191st Street station is a successful integration of public art and the positive impact it can have on communities.

Ann Hamilton, Chorus, World Trade Center-Cortlandt Station, Image Courtesy MTA

The World Trade Center-Cortlandt Station reopened this past September after being destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Restoring this subway stop to the resurgent Lower Manhattan, artist Ann Hamilton designed a marble mosaic entitled “CHORUS” that honors a tragic and powerful legacy. A MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow, Hamilton’s marble reliefs feature text from the Declaration of Independence and the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. Powerful and solemn, the installation’s typographic design repetitively highlights words such as “everyone” as it echoes civic ideals and liberties in a proverbial chorus.

Tom Otterness, Life Underground, 14th Street Union Square Station, Image Courtesy MTA

At the 14th Street Station on 8th Avenue, Tom Otterness’ bronze sculptures are perched in unexpected places on stairwells, benches, and over riders’ heads. Whimsical animals with cartoon faces draw inspiration from Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall as Otterness explores his cheeky interpretation of social anarchy. Playing on New York City and subway myths such as sewer alligators, his creatures are often holding bags of money, alluding to New York’s wealth, consumerism, and perhaps, corruption.

For these artists, the urban landscape, history, and endless cultural influences of New York play an essential role in their collaborations with the MTA. With hundreds of thousands of daily visits to the combined New York City subway stations, commuters can enjoy having art as part of their daily journey.

Joanne Artman Gallery