Underground Art – Literally

It is six o’clock in the morning, rush hour, and the only thing that a New Yorker cares about, while on that trip to work, is getting from “point A”  to “point B” with their daily regimen of caffeine in their system. The same goes for those who come home from work between the peak commute hours of four and six. Unfortunately, daily commuters do not take the time to acknowledge the artwork that is burrowed beneath the New York City pavements. More often than not, it seems that a tourist would enjoy them more because a native New Yorker would fail to recognize that they would be there; however, rather than being a passerby, daily commuters should stop and appreciate the artwork placed there for them.


The New York subway is full of surprises and detours that occur on several occasions, but the most interesting detours are the ceramic mosaics that one would find on their trip to wherever it may be. On that trip to the Upper East Side, The Bronx, or Queens, the 59th Street and Lexington Avenue stop has something for travelers of that area. Elizabeth Murray’s Blooming has been coloring the stairwells of the 59th and Lexington stop since 1996. The mosaic’s vibrant colors catch the viewer’s eye with images of coffee cups and shoes – symbols of la vie quotidienne. If one just distances themselves a bit from the mosaic, they would see a new array of images moving with their eye. Elizabeth Murray sure does have a way of keeping people “on-the-go” going.


For those who are fans of abstract expressionism, the mosaic in the connecting hallway from the 4, 5, and 6 trains to the 7 line at Grand Central station is something that will spark an interest. Arches, Towers, Pyramids has traits of minamalism that are simple yet expressive. The mosaic extends itself from one end to the other on a downward slope that leads to the 7 line. Geometric images Jackie Ferrara uses in her mosaic transition nicely as you walk by it.


Still thinking abstract? Another great stop to get lost in is the 42nd Street – Bryant Park station. Like Ferrara’s Arches, Towers, Pyramids, it also is located in a connecting hallway, between the 7 line and the B, D, F,and V lines. Samm Kunce’s Under Bryant Park creates the intriguing illusion of walking through a cave and coming out to a jungle at the mezzanine level. On the way to the jungle, one will see the famous nursery rhyme of Jack and Jill written on the pipelines of the mosaic. Kunce’s walk from a nursery rhyme to a quote by Carl Jung gives great insight about the transition from childhood to adulthood in the concrete jungle.


Some artists do not want to put their childhood to rest and that is what Lisa Dinhofer expresses in her mosaic Losing My Marbles. It is true that being in the city can cause someone to have a couple of loose screws but it is nothing severe. Dinohofer’s mosaic has a jovial life to it. The colors she uses are bright and vibrant; they are a definite eye-catcher when making that transfer in Times Square by the Port Authority exit in the station. On the other hand, there is more to the Times Square station than Losing My Marbles. Jane Dickson portrays the ringing in of the New Year with several different characters in The Revelers. The annual highlight of the year is displayed all throughout the station; Dickson uses the images of family and friends to move a gazer, in order to provide a sense of festivity and fun in the station.


Fun and wit is what Tom Otterness provides when standing at the platform or mezzanine level by his bronze statues. Some of his statues are completely humorous, while others illustrate hardships in New York City; looking for them makes a great scavenger hunt! Life Underground’s series of bronze sculptures can be found at the 14th Street and 8th Avenue station by the L,  A,  C, and E trains. They are located in practically every nook and cranny within the train station. Trying to find all of the bronze statues is a joyous mission indeed.


Stopping by any of these stations just to enjoy the artwork is a great way to spend time for those days where there is nothing to do. There is more artwork out there in the subway than those that have been previously mentioned. At the Times Square station, there are plenty more murals to look at and every once in a while a casual entertainer will play a jam or do a dance. Delancey and Essex Street, the station connecting the J and F trains, also have a great mosaic by Ming Fay. It is also another great place to stop by.  However, there are those who are always on-the-go practically every hour who truly miss out on these things and usually fail to recognize them. Even if they pass by for just a second, they should stop and look at the art underground.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here