Chuck Close at the 2nd Avenue Subway



If you were introduced to twenty people but you could only identify them using their social security numbers, how many would you be able to pick out of a crowd the next day? If you’re like me, probably zero. That’s kind of what it’s like to have prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Facial features become a mess of details that you just can’t remember. That’s pretty fascinating, right? And you know what’s even more fascinating? Chuck Close, the renowned portrait artist, suffers from it.

Even without the prosopagnosia, Close’s path as an artist has not been an easy one.  He battled dyslexia and neuromuscular weakness as a child, then suffered a spinal artery collapse at 48 that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  But consistent resistance builds the right kind of muscles — perhaps the only positive outcome of such a hard life — so rehabilitation and sheer will helped him regain enough movement in his arms to allow him to make art again.  Even if he still has to use both hands to hold a brush.



Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A close-up of the detail on Lyle (1999) by Chuck Close, which is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art
Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A self-portrait

The signature style we’ve come to associate with Close is a product of his existence.  Breaking down faces that he would normally struggle to remember helps him process its components.  Each face is unique: a mole above the lip, a birthmark on a cheek, wrinkles around the eyes.  Turning the face into a two-dimensional piece registers differently, and circumvents the face blindness.

Chuck Close’s work hangs in many prestigious museums and homes.  And now, it graces the walls of the 86th St station of the new 2nd Avenue subway.  The twelve separate portraits were meant to reflect the diverse riding population, and they include self-portraits and images of other artists like Lou Reed and Cecily Brown.  Creative mosaic renderings bring the mammoth likenesses to life with every shadow and expressive nuance immaculately captured.

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Portrait of Lou Reed
Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Portrait of Cecily Brown

The 2nd Avenue Subway opened on January 1 and is now running on a 24-hour schedule.  Here are some goodies you’ll find at the other stations:

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Perfect Strangers” series by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz at the 72nd Street station
Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Perfect Strangers” series by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz at the 72nd Street station



Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Blueprint for a Landscape” by Sarah Sze at the 96th Street station
Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Blueprint for a Landscape” by Sarah Sze at the 96th Street station

So, have you taken your subway art ride yet?



Pair it with:

Brunch at 2nd Avenue Deli

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

So we thought it’d be really funny to pair the 2nd Avenue subway art with 2nd Ave Deli because the Upper East Side location is actually located on… 1st Avenue!  (The name is based on its original location, which closed in 2006).  Okay, it’s less funny than we thought.

2nd Ave Deli is a certified-kosher deli that was opened in 1954 and has remained in the family since.  You can find authentic Jewish staples here like knishes and matzo brei.  All the meats are cured in-house, and although everyone has a favorite when it comes to pastrami sandwiches, there’s no arguing that 2nd Ave Deli’s often makes the list.  The brunch here is simple but excellent.  I gobbled down my Lox and Eggs while Justin enjoyed his Corned Beef Omelet.  At the end of the meal, we were served a shot of egg cream each (which, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a classic fountain drink made of milk, carbonated water and chocolate syrup).  Come and enjoy the taste of tradition.

Location:
1442 1st Ave

Hours:
Monday through Friday 11 am – 12 am
Saturday & Sunday 9 am – 12 am

– L.

 

7 thoughts on “Chuck Close at the 2nd Avenue Subway”

    1. Thanks, Marguerite! It’s quite a treat, and now that the subway is running 24 hours it might be fun to go off-hours and have it to yourself. The amount of detail in some of these is amazing, we’d love to hear what you think!

  1. I read about the 2nd Avenue subway finally opening, and the art there – glad you posted about it since it will probably be a while before I get there. I like your bit of biographical info on Close – what a life he’s had, such extremes of suffering and success.
    I briefly went to school on the east side and lived there, too (upper and lower), and remember well having to depend on buses and walking….that long trudge. Then the endless delays in even starting the project and years later, it seemed the construction was taking an eon. But here it is and as usual, the Transit Authority pulls off some great art underground. I didn’t realize there are TWELVE Close’s! Nice! The Perfect Strangers series reminds me of those tiny silhouettes downtown at the Prince Street station – I love those, a celebration of ordinary NY street life. The Sarah Sze piece is gorgeous – and I bet those egg creams were good, even on a winter day!

    1. Yes, Close’s work and story are both quite unique. We love that they tried to make diversity a priority with the new installations. The portraits are really quite impressive in real life, even though I’m sure the novelty will wear off for the regular riders in no time and we’ll return to staring at our phones and complaining about the service! We hope you make it out for a visit, it sounds like it will be quite the trip down memory lane as well. (And we’ll be pleased if look us up when you do!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *