Painting and poetry, video and performance, interactive media and sculpture, all are represented in a new exhibition of contemporary art commissioned in honor of the centennial of Grand Central Terminal. On Time/Grand Central at 100 was curated and organized by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design and is on view at the New York Transit Museum Gallery at Grand Central from March 6 through July 7.
Artists interpret the theme of time and the people who move and live through it, who are connected to the past and future through their experience in this iconic, romantic place.
“Our clocks keep track, ticking past seconds, minutes, hours, days. In Grand Central, the clock stands sentinel, measuring moments and bearing witness to the millions who pass through as we bustle to and from our family, our work, our passions, our lives,” said Amy Hausmann, assistant director, MTA Arts for Transit, in describing the inspiration for the exhibit. “It is a place where past, present and future come together. The artists are thinking about a sense of time, bending it and exploring what this mythic, iconic place means to us.”
“The city orbits around eight million/ centers of the universe” begins the poem “Grand Central” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, which was commissioned by Arts for Transit and the Poetry Society of America for the Poetry in Motion program in honor of the Centennial. Collins succinctly captures the communal sense of place felt by all who travel through the terminal.
Traces of journeys are the focus of works by artist Jim Campbell, who considers incremental time by measuring footsteps, using video-based LEDs to stagger time and create shadows of motion that sweep across the terminal floor. Paul Himmel, a noted mid-century fashion photographer for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, pins down the timelessness of the solitary figure in his poetic black and white images that isolate a single figure, standing stock-still in the blur of a crowd.
Tracking time by the sun’s rays is the focus of Penelope Umbrico’s work as she amasses variations of one of the most recognizable images of the terminal — light streaming through the windows and pooling on the main concourse floor — creating a wholly new composition that prompts the viewer to take a closer look at how photography, memory and image making are joined and indexed.
Vik Muniz takes a culturally iconic image, "Rolling Power" by Charles Sheeler featuring engine parts from the Henry Dreyfuss-designed New York Central locomotive, and transforms it through his own meticulous method of hand-crafted paper collage and photography, an apt homage to the house that built the New York Central Railroad and utilized newly-created time zones to dispatch trains across the country, on time.
Lothar Osterburg brings a fantastical version of Grand Central to life, blurring the lines between past and present with his inky images of the famous grand vaulted space. Osterburg intuitively rebuilds scenes from memory that capture his imagination, in this case — Grand Central’s main concourse complete with staircases, steam engines and zeppelins. The small-scale models, built from bits of found and re-purposed materials, are photographed using the 19th century method of copperplate photogravure, a painstakingly labor-intensive printing process that results in a beguiling image of a mysterious, yet eerily familiar place.