Sunday, November 27, 2011

POST: Xenobia Bailey / The Wall Street Journal online / November 25, 2011

Xenobia Bailey, whose art will be installed in new 7 line subway station at 34th Street in New York City.
Subway Depths, Lit by Art
As subway riders descend the escalator into a new 7 line station near 10th Avenue and 34th Street in 2013, they will be followed by a mosaic of brightly colored celestial orbs shining from a deep blue sky.
At a planned Second Avenue subway stop at 63rd Street, the walls will display photographs evoking the elevated trains that once rumbled above. And a station at 96th Street will feature line drawings fired onto ceramic tiles, playing with perspectives as travelers move through the space.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
A rendering of the 96th Street subway station with art by Sarah Sze.
The designs are part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan to make each of its new subway stations on the extended 7 line and new Second Avenue line a massive work of public art. Building on the MTA's nearly three-decade history of enlivening subway and commuter rail stations with mosaics and sculpture, the agency has commissioned art that accompanies riders from the sidewalk to the platform and helps shape spaces that haven't yet been built.
The effort is ongoing: The MTA last week issued a call for artists for the Second Avenue line's 72nd Street station.
"It's very exciting," said Sandra Bloodworth, director of the MTA's Arts for Transit and Urban Design program, who, along with the artists, discussed details of the projects for the first time. "It's three New Yorkers, three visions. I think that reflects the subway; it reflects our ridership."
The MTA, like New York City, allocates 1% of the funding for many construction projects to public artworks. Since the Arts for Transit program was created in 1985, artwork has been installed in about 230 MTA subway and commuter rail stations, plus the Battery Park Tunnel entrance.
The proposed installations—costing between about $900,000 and $1 million each—will feature the work of three city artists: Xenobia Bailey, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin. The Second Avenue stations are expected to be finished by 2016, three years after the 7 extension, the MTA said.
The 34th Street station between 10th and 11th avenues—in the Hudson Yards development—will feature Ms. Bailey's 2,800-square-foot work at both station entrances and on the ceiling of the mezzanine.
Ms. Bailey, who lives and works in Harlem, said her shooting stars and birthing planets tell a creation story.

Ms. Bailey, who works with hand-dyed yarns made of wool, silk and cotton, crocheted the celestial orbs by hand, then created digital images. A fabricator will transform them into a new medium—mosaic tile—echoing the texture of her original work.
"I want to bring some form of jubilation," she said. "It's like a new beginning. When you come down the escalator, you're going to be hit with the sun."
Ms. Bailey said her work stems from the African-American tradition of domestic crafts and takes inspiration from the aesthetic of funk. "It's a form of deliverance, our creativity," she said. "We can make it happen when we don't have anything."
Her works are in the permanent collections of Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Proposal by Jean Shin for the Second Avenue line's 63rd Street Station.
Ms. Shin, a Brooklyn artist who has created public works for the Long Island Rail Road and a Battery Park City elementary and middle school, has designed pieces in mosaic and glass for the 63rd Street station, which will be expanded to accommodate the Second Avenue line.
Using archival photographs from the New York Historical Society and Transit Museum, Ms. Shin will depict the 1942 dismantling of the Second Avenue elevated line and the opening of the sky over an area accustomed to rumbling and shadows.
In the mezzanine, commuters will walk past life-size images of New Yorkers from the 1940s. A shimmering cityscape, as viewed from the old elevated platforms, will be re-created in glass.
In all, Ms. Shin's pieces are expected to cover about 1,900 square feet. "I hope, as commuters go through this new technology and this new subway line, the new will be the old and the old will be the new," said Ms. Shin, 40 years old.
At the 96th Street station, Ms. Sze, a Chelsea artist who recently completed a sculpture for the High Line, will use ceramic tiles to play with travelers' sense of light, space and perspective. Her drawings, in varying shades of indigo, will evoke blueprints.
At one entrance, a gust of wind will appear to follow people down a staircase, blowing leaves and pieces of paper. According to her design—which will require a change in the original building plans—the leaves will then wrap around an elevator, etched in glass.
Her installation, at three entrances and on the mezzanine, is estimated to total 4,000 square feet. "To create an environment through drawings—it's an impossible thing to do unless you have this kind of space," said Ms. Sze, who is 42. "It gives the entire station a kind of identity."

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