The 5th Avenue and 59th Street Subway Stop of the N, Q and R Trains lets you off just few blocks from the entrance to the Central Park Zoo, and you can enjoy a bit of urban safari even before you exit the station which features a collection of colorful tile mosaic murals of various animals that you might find in the zoo or in and around the park. Check out this family of monkeys!
While I am often traveling through the 6 Train station at Bleecker Street, I am almost never originating or concluding a ride at that stop. That is my excuse for taking four years to write about one of the coolest — if not the coolest – piece of art in the entire NYC subway system, which is called Hive (Bleecker Street).
Artist Leo Villareal created the LED art, currently installed at the Bleecker Street subway station, in 2012. Made of LED tubes, custom software, electrical hardware, aluminum and stainless steel, the LED sculpture takes the form of a honeycomb, above the stairs that mark the transfer point connecting the IRT and IND subway lines.
Bright colors, outlining each hexagonal honeycomb shape, move across the sculpture. Villareal created an unprecedented art experience for transit riders who use the station with the installations use of technology and LEDs. Hive (Bleecker Street) has a playful aspect in its reference to games. Riders will be able to identify individual elements within a larger context, and track this movement.
The work explores the compulsion to recognize patterns and the brain’s hard-coded desire to understand and make meaning. The patterns also take inspiration from the research of the mathematician John Conway, who invented the Game of Life, the best-known cellular automata program. Hive (Bleecker Street) speaks to a diverse audience – it is abstract and evocative, and can have many different meanings.
Through changing patterns presented in randomized progression, Hive creates an experience for riders . Overall, the piece resonates with the activity of the station, transportation network and the city itself. The work was fabricated by Parallel Development.
The best photos of Hive (Bleecker Street) are taken from the stairs or escalator below the installation, but I was waiting for a train late at night and did not want to miss it, so took these photos and video from the platform. If I get better photos in the future, I will add them to this post!
One of the reasons to visit the American Museum of Natural History is taking part in the Art Safari that you get to enjoy on your way out of the subway! Every time we arrive on the C Train stop at 81st Street and Central Park West to enjoy another urban adventure at this fantastic Museum, we find a new tile mosaic that we’ve not seen before. This pair of colorful parrots rest on the stairway handrail, exiting to the street.
Platform Diving consists of seven glass mosaic murals commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Houston Street subway station (at Varick Street) and installed in 1994 on the walls of the northbound and southbound subway platforms of the 1 Train, and in a waiting area by the token booth.
The mosaics depict undersea creatures — turtles, beluga whales, octopi, seals, and a manatee–swimming through the subway tunnels, platforms, and passenger cars. Occasionally, humans observe their movements. The concept behind the choice of imagery was to represent a fanciful, surreal encounter between the world we normally inhabit and the one we might encounter when we descend below the surface.
What’s so crazy is that these murals have been up for nearly 20 years, and I just them for the first time in early September, because I never get off at this stop.