Subway Portraits—Chuck Close New York

Image by ghdunbar

Subway Portraits—Chuck Close – Subway art 1

I know my trains and the routes I travel, whether to be at the front or back of the train and so forth, but say, the W? What, there’s a W train? I know the L runs to Brooklyn, but the G? I confess, I did take the G once and I know it runs through the highest station on the MTA system (Smith/9th Avenue, about 90’), the Red Hook stop.

I needed to take the Q train (there’s a Q?) to experience the east side extension, recently opened, to see the 86th Street station, where twelve Chuck Close mosaic portraits adorn the walls.

Turned out to be worthwhile figuring it out. Close’s work is a blockbuster, the scale huge (‘yuge’, as New Yorkers Trump and Sanders would say), his work mesmerizing. Arrested, I stared at each piece trying to figure out how it worked, how the colours melded, how an artist could preconceive the final look, if only to have the tiles manufactured and organized.

The work is intense, in your face, metaphorically depicting New York’s energy, commitment and joie de vivre.

The portraits are now of the rider’s routine, established, but a moment taken to stop and gaze transports you before you’re even on a train.

There’s a ton of artwork throughout the system, nearly all of it ceramic with some bronze, in widely scattered stations.

This is a 5-star station art-wise; otherwise, not my favorite. Judge for yourself.

Chuck Close died died Aug. 19, 2021, age 81

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Details about this spot



86th St & Second Ave, New York

Opening Times

24 hours daily


Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)