Sarah Sze Installation Opens in New Second Ave Subway

January 18, 2017

Visual Arts Program faculty member, Sarah Sze, is one of four artists featured in one of the most talked-about and long-awaited New York public infrastructure projects in recent memory.

The project consisted of building and designing four stops that comprise the new part of the line. In 2009, the MTA devoted $4.5 million to the project, and they received over 300 applicants. One artist was chosen for each stop. Sze’s installation is featured in the 96th Street station. The other featured artists are Chuck Close (86th Street), Vik Muniz (72nd Street), and Jean Shin (63rd Street).

At the 96th Street station, Sze’s installation conveys a sense of swift motion, reflecting the movement of the passing trains. A New York Times feature on the project calls Sze’s installation a “Blueprint for Landscape.” The Times also says that Sze’s work “transform[s] the station into what looks like a deep-blue immersive drawing that unfolds down the escalators and through the concourse. Fragmented images of scaffolding, birds, chairs and leaves, digitally collaged, seem as if caught in a great whoosh caused by a hurtling train.”

Sze’s piece is a tribute to a famous work by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. She worked with tile masters in Spain and opted to use standard subway-station tiles, rather than mosaic. “I wanted to use tile as if it were one large piece of paper,” she told the Times.

The 96th street station concourse depicts travelers overtaken by wind. According to the Times, Sze uses “blue and white in an almost minimalist fashion to adorn the walls with images of blowing paper — dense at the station’s north end and sparser moving south, as a directional aid.”

Sze told the Times her piece was about “the mind-boggling pace we’re all moving at now.” She adds, “There’s a lot of information, but it has a kind of rhythm to it that you can navigate.”

In addition to her work for the MTA, Sze has recently shown at the Rose Museum at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and at the Tonya Bonakdar Gallery in New York. She also appeared at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and 2015.