Brooklyn Boro

New York City’s bus stops are getting a makeover

August 12, 2019 Scott Enman

One hundred bus shelters across the five boroughs, including 18 in Brooklyn, will be adorned with photographs depicting life in New York City as part of a new project from Bushwick-based artist Elle Pérez.

The exhibit, commissioned by the Public Art Fund and titled “from sun to sun,” opens on Tuesday and will feature 16 images at bus stops across Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg.

“Mi Orgullo (Stephen).” Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York

“Public Art Fund realized that this was a unique opportunity for us to use these spaces that are traditionally reserved for advertising to present a different kind of imagery,” assistant curator Katerina Stathopoulou told the Brooklyn Eagle. “These bus shelters create really unique opportunities for people to engage with photography at a larger-than-life scale.”

Pérez’s photos, conceived specifically for this platform, portray elements of New York’s urban make up, including friends and family of the artist, the interior of a subway car and a close-up of a Puerto Rican flag tattoo, among others.

“Bikes.” Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York

Stathopoulou said she and Pérez tried to create a rhythm with the images that alternated between focusing on figures and environments to echo the “cyclical nature of the city.”

“I knew Elle would be able to capture aspects of New York — the people, the places, the surfaces — in a very genuine and unassuming manner,” Stathopoulou said. “There is something about their photographs that stops you in your tracks whether it’s a photograph of a person, a cluster of bicycles or flowers in a store.”

“Brandon T., Activist Educator.” Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York.

The inspiration for the project stemmed from a previous collaboration with Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei for the Public Art Fund’s 40th anniversary in October 2017. That artwork, titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” featured metal wire security fences on bus shelters throughout the city, including in Downtown Brooklyn.

Elle Pérez, “Arroz con pollo asado, platano maduros, y yuca.” Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York

Pérez’s work, on view through Nov. 24, is the inaugural piece in a new partnership with outdoor advertising company JCDecaux. The Public Art Fund will present two, 14-week solo exhibitions each year on 100 of JCDecaux’s advertising spaces on bus shelters across the five boroughs.

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The specific bus shelters in Brooklyn were chosen so that the pieces would have high visibility and be clustered near each other so the audience could experience multiple photos at the same time. The images will be repeated six to seven times across the five boroughs — a deliberate strategy, according to Stathopoulou.

“We wanted to use the language of advertising and repetition,” she said. “Instead of doing 100 unique images, we wanted this idea of familiarity. If you see an image in Brooklyn and then you encounter the same image in Manhattan, you start recognizing it as part of a body of work.”

Elle Pérez’s “from sun to sun” is on view Tuesday through Nov. 24. A map of all the bus shelters can be found here.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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