For the first time, I had the pleasure of taking the new Second Avenue Subway line (known as the “Q”) from 88th Street. I was staying at Laura’s apartment for a long weekend, and was in a big hurry to get to a new age musical event 60 blocks south.
So I wasn’t paying too much attention to my subway surroundings (not a good thing in NYC), until I saw this huge, vivid, in-your-face image staring at me from the wall. I stopped in my tracks. “Could it be a Chuck Close self-portrait?”, I asked myself.
I walked closer and touched the mosaic, which I always wanted to do in museums and never could. “Could this be Chuck Close’s eye?”
Yes, it could. And it was. Suddenly I remembered reading about major public art installations in the new subway line, including the Chuck Close “Subway Portraits”, but had long forgotten about it living in the suburbs.
The mosaic installations are amazing! How does Chuck Close do this? From short distance away (I’m trying not to keep repeating the word close; what a coincidence that’s his name…or is it?), the mosaics look totally abstract, but far away they form a realistic portrait.
On the way home, I come back to explore, and was glad I did.
I found another Chuck Close self-portrait, this time gigantic and more detailed, showing every facial imperfection that helped make him famous.
Compare the eye to the one above. Take a look at Chuck’s mustache. It’s hard to believe this is made out of pieces of glass or ceramic tiles rather than being painted.
The striking mosaics are placed strategically near the escalators, elevators and exits. This well-known portrait of the composer Philip Glass was a welcome relief from that steep escalator ride.
Then I came upon this delightful child. To keep the body parts theme going, here are close-ups of an eye and mouth.
By now you’ve had enough scrolling, so I’ll end by saying this is public art at its finest. There’s a lot more where this came from at 88th street and other Second Avenue stops on Manhattan’s upper east side.
It’s art you can experience – up Close and personal – by one of the rock stars of American art. And it’s free (almost)!