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Underground NYC

by staff, 10/09/2012 [Updated 11/11/2015]

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  • Arts for Transit 
    There was a time when the City's subway system was a blank canvas for graffiti artists who filled walls and subway cars with tags over tags, over more tags. The mid-'80s ushered in a new wave of underground art, however, when mosaics, murals and sculptures became permanent artwork under Arts for Transit. The program was implemented to enhance and promote art in subway stations and to reflect the stations' surrounding neighborhoods and features. Throughout NYC, art in the form of grand mosaic images, stained glass, light-box presentations, posters and poetry creates a colorful underground landscape.

    Milton Glaser, the graphic designer behind the I Heart NY logo, created geometric porcelain panels at the Astor Place 6 train station and Roy Lichtenstein's Times Square Mural is a testament to NYC's fast paced energy. 

    Other permanent pieces include Tom Otterness' Life Underground, featuring cartoonlike bronze sculptures throughout the 14th Street subway station that depict intriguing scenes of City and subway life; Vito Acconci's Wavewall, a wavelike installation at the Q train's West 8th Street stop, which suggests the motion of the neighboring Cyclone roller coaster; and Bill Brand's Masstransiscope, a mass-transit version of a zoetrope, which creates a series of bright and psychedelic images, colors and shapes as the train moves past. 

    Poetic words whirl throughout the subway in car cards showcasing poems and artwork from featured writers Dorothea Tanning, Jeffery Yang, Kevin Young and Aracelis Girmay. The program, Poetry in Motion, displays eight poems per year.—CP

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