Sarah Sze

Art21 "Extended Play" | Designing a Subway Station
April 14, 2017

Artist Sarah Sze tackles her most public and challenging installation to-date as she designs an immersive artwork for the Second Avenue Subway in New York City. “Subway stations are one of the most democratic places that you can find,” says Sze, who was one of four artists commissioned by MTA Arts & Design to create work for the new stations along Manhattan’s Upper East Side.


Sze’s “Blueprint for a Landscape” (2017) treats each of the three entrances and the connecting mezzanine at the 96th Street Station as an opportunity to examine and amplify how we move through space. Incorporated into the piece are manipulated photographs of sculptural works and the New York City landscape, as well as intimate hand drawings enlarged many times over. Sze credits the Italian Futurists and Russian Constructivists as inspiration for the resulting juxtapositions. “They were obsessed with this idea of the acceleration of the experience of time, mostly through transit,” says the artist. “As a place of transit, I wanted all of the different entranceways of the subway station to mirror how we move through space. It's this kind of speed of movement—these transitions into different kinds of environments that we take for granted and we do repetitively.”


Sarah Sze builds her installations and intricate sculptures from the minutiae of everyday life, imbuing mundane materials, marks, and processes with surprising significance. By arranging domestic detritus and office supplies into fantastical miniatures, she builds her works, fractal-like, on an architectural scale. Whether adapting to a site or disrupting the urban fabric, Sze's patchwork compositions mirror the improvisational quality of cities, balancing whimsy with ecological themes of interconnectivity and sustainability.