NYC | Take a Ride on the Second Ave Line

72nd Street Station Mom and Stroller
Vik Muniz Complete Strangers

What continues to amaze me after all these years of visiting New York City, is its continual evolution. Over two millennia ago, Heraclitus observed that “the only thing constant is change.”  That could serve as the city’s motto.  Not all change is good — I am not a fan of the so-called “finger” buildings — but there are many causes for celebration including the long-awaited opening of the Second Avenue subway.  

Platform View 86th StreetThe opening of the  three-station, two-mile line might seem much ado about nothing.  However, it was 90 years in the planning and ten more to construct! Best of all, the proverbial icing on the cake is the amazing artwork commissioned and installed as a result.

Vik Muniz created a panoply of 36 mosaic portraits that grace the 72nd Street station.  I imagine everyone has favorites; here are a few of mine.Vik Muniz_Complete Strangers Man with Globe-2It should come as no surprise that this image is one of my favorites given the globe! In fact, I had a similar one growing up. I would close my eyes, spin the globe, place a finger on it and wait to see where I would travel in the future.Vik Muniz_Daniel Boulud copy

Daniel Boulud’s restaurants are at the top of my list in NYC, as is this portrait of the chef and restauranteur whose flagship is only a few blocks away.

Vik Muniz_Complete Strangers w-Worker
Vik Muniz Complete Strangers

Muniz enlisted friends to populate some of the works, staging them as prototypical New Yorkers waiting for the subway.

Chuck Close created nine-foot tall close-up photo-based portraits of friends and fellow artists for the 86th street station.ChuckClose_Photo Mosaic of Kara WalkerKara Walker gazes at passersby above. Below, the pixelated compositional elements are seen up close.Kara Walker Close Up

Chuck Close Self-Portrait
Chuck Close Self-Portrait

At the other end of the spectrum, Sarah Sze‘s “Blueprint for a Landscape” at the 96th street station is immersive, spans almost the entirety of the station, and is devoid of human presence. Sarah Sze Second Avenue SubwayThe artist explained that “the blueprint is traditionally a two-dimensional drawing that helps you understand three-dimensional space,”The video below is a great way to understand the concept behind and the impact of this wonderful work.

There are art works throughout the subway system, including Jean Shin’s “Elevated” at the 63rd street station, which I did not get the chance to see this trip. The MTA Arts & Design collection of over 250 projects was initiated in 1985.  When I travel around New York by subway, I think of it as a kind of treasure hunt and look for art works in every station. Stay tuned for more of the wonderful underground art museum in future posts.

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