In 2017, the Second Avenue Subway opened Phase 1 and unveiled artwork in four subway stations. They are located at 96th Street, 86th Street, 72nd Street, and a new entrance to the existing station at Lexington Avenue at 63rd Street. MTA Arts & Design commissioned four artists for this ambitious project. Phase 1 is served by the Q train, with limited rush-hour N and R trains. Take a ride with us on the Q train, beginning on 63rd Street, heading north.
East 63rd Street, artist Jean Shin
Jean Shin: Elevated is located at the East 63rd Street Second Avenue Subway Station. Her work was inspired by what was simultaneously lost and gained by the momentous dismantling of the Second Ave El in the 1940s. Here, she connects it to the present-day Second Avenue Subway.
For this commission, Shin used images of the El structures taken from archival photographs and re-imagined them in a contemporary context, using ceramic, mosaic and glass.
The entrance level ceramic fabrication was done by Frank Giorgini, NY; Mezzanine level glass mosaic fabricated by Miotto Studios NY; and the platform levels, laminated glass fabricated by Tom Patti Design, MA.
More work by the artist can be found at ~ Jean Shin: Floating Maize and Jean Shin: The Last Straw on view at Brookfield Place through September 18, 2020.
East 72nd Street, artist Vik Muniz
Vik Muniz: Perfect Strangers is located at the East 72nd Street Second Avenue Subway Station. For this commission, Muniz photographed more than three dozen ‘characters’ who represent “unique and quirky kinds of people one encounters on the subway.’ The photographs were recreated in mosaic and installed throughout the mezzanine and entrance areas.
The Second Avenue Subway commission is a departure from the artist’s typical work. Muniz is known to work with unconventional materials like….tomato sauce, diamonds, magazine clippings, chocolate syrup, dust…..and with this, he references old master’s paintings and celebrity portraits. He was featured in the 2010 documentary film, Waste Land, with the film highlighting Muniz’s work on one of the world’s largest garbage dumps in Rio de Janeiro.
Vik Muniz: Perfect Strangers creates for this commission the very people who ride this subway system every day. Vik Muniz is a Brazilian-born artist based in New York City and Rio de Janeiro.
East 86th Street, artist, Chuck Close
Chuck Close: Subway Portraits is located at the East 86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station. Here, the artist portrays cultural figures often used by the artist as subjects ~ Philip Glass, Zhang Huan, Kara Walker, Alex Katz, Cecily Brown, Cindy Sherman, Lou Reed ~ and a stunning self-portrait.
Working from gridded photographs, Close builds his images by applying one careful stroke after another in multi-colors or grayscale, creating larger-than-life works. An interesting fact is that Close suffers from Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, in which he is unable to recognize faces. By painting portraits, he is better able to recognize and remember faces.
Several documentary’s have been made on the artist, including Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress, 1998, PBS and Chuck Close: Eye To Eye: ART/new york No. 48 by his classmate at Yale, Paul Tschinkel. British art critic Christopher Finch wrote the biography, Chuck Close: Life, published in 2010.
Did you know that Chuck Close was one of eight artists who volunteered in 2013 to participate in President Barack Obama’s Turnaround Arts Initiative? This program aimed to improve low-performing schools by increasing student engagement through the arts. Close mentored 34 students in the sixth through eighth grades at Roosevelt School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Chuck Close lives and works in New York City and Eastern Long Island.
East 96th Street, artist Sarah Sze
Sarah Sze: Blueprint for a Landscape fills the East 96th Street Second Avenue Subway Station with over 4,300 unique porcelain wall tiles spanning approximately 14,000 square-feet.
Her designs feature everyday objects – sheets of paper blowing in the wind, scaffolding, birds, trees, foliage, using a blueprint-style vector line design.
Sarah Sze was also recently recognized as one of the artists commissioned by The Public Art Fund to create work for the Arrivals and Departures Hall of LaGuardia Airport, Terminal B ~ unveiled in June, 2020 ~ and Frieze New York 2019 on the Rock Center Plaza.
The artist is a resident of New York City and a professor of visual arts at Columbia University.
Visitors to the community information center can map the future extension from 125th Street all the way to Coney Island, and view videos showing how the subway is being built.
Phase 3 will extend the line south from 72nd Street to Houston Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When complete, a new T train will serve the entire line from Harlem to Houston Street. Phase 4 will again extend the line south from Houston Street to Hanover Square, at which point the T would provide service to the entire line.
Take a look at East 125th Street, a work in progress.