Display Cases in the Great Hall: Exhibition Archive


3 April - 19 May 2017

Jean Shin

First proposed in 1929, New York’s Second Avenue Subway was abandoned as a result of the Stock Market Crash, and the beginning of the Great Depression that year. Anticipating the new subway line, existing 2nd and 3rd Avenue elevated train tracks were dismantled, leaving a transportation void for the remaining part of the century. Work proceeded in fits and starts for decades until groundbreaking in 2007 led to the 2017 opening. When New York’s Second Avenue Subway line finally opened, public art installations were commissioned by the MTA from New York City based artists, including Jean Shin, an internationally recognized artist working in the public realm, whose sketches are on view here.

Shin drew inspiration from the demolition of the “El”, as the elevated lines were called. One straphanger recorded at the time described the condition as “getting the sky back.” Working from historical photographs from the 1940s and 1950s unearthed at the New York Historical Society and New York Transit Museum, Shin sought to recreate the experience of reclaiming the sky.  By erasing the profiles of the elevated train tracks from the photos, Shin creates an empty space with their profile that she filled with blue sky and clouds. Commuters captured in vintage photos populate the new station’s walls in the form of glass mosaics designed by Shin, awaiting subway trains that took more than seventy years to arrive.

By transforming an everyday experience, Shin’s work celebrates forgotten moments within the fabric of the city and its inhabitants. Manipulated photographs presented here are Shin’s original artwork for the glass mosaic permanently installed on the mezzanine level of the new subway stations at 63rd Street on 2nd Avenue Subway.

Photo of Jean Shin in front of her exhibition

Curated by Lisa A. Banner