Riders passing through Los Angeles’s three new underground metro stations might reasonably think they have entered a subterranean museum. The so-called Regional Connector, inaugurated on 16 June in a ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum, sees the addition of three new metro stations to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s network in Downtown Los Angeles: the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, the Historic Broadway Station and the Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station. The stations feature eight new permanent artworks commissioned through the Metro Art programme.
At the Little Tokyo/Arts District, the station’s entrance pavilion features Harmony (2023), a luminous intervention by San Francisco-based artist Clare Rojas that incorporates translucent abstract forms and the cycles of the moon. Down on the platforms, the Los Angeles-based artist Audrey Chan’s 14-panel mural cycle Will Power Allegory (2023) depicts, in fantastical fashion, events and communities connected to Little Tokyo, Skid Row, Bronzeville and more.
Travellers entering or leaving the Historic Broadway station will do so via an entrance pavilion adorned with text in different colours and languages, a site-specific work by Los Angeles-based artist Andrea Bowers titled The People United (“El pueblo unido jamás será vencido,” Sergio Ortega and Quilapayun; “Brown Beret 13 Point Political Program,” La Causa) (2023). The titular phrases are frequent chants at protests, which often take place nearby as the Historic Broadway station sits near City Hall, county and federal courthouses, the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department and other civic institutions.
“I seek to reflect the diverse communities that regularly gather downtown to express their voices and their rights,” Bowers said in a statement.
Below ground at Historic Broadway, Los Angeles-born and -based artist Mark Steven Greenfield has created the large, radiant abstract mural, Red Car Requiem (2023). He intends the work to serve as “a whimsical abstraction of the energy” of the city’s Pacific Electric Red Cars, a vast network of electric streetcars that connected Los Angeles’s downtown and outskirts between 1901 and 1961.
On the station’s platforms, the photographer Clarence Williams—who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998, when he was a staff photographer for The Los Angeles Times—has collaborated with the poet Ursula Rucker on a series of haikus, which are juxtaposed with his photographs. The texts and images, titled Migrations (2023), are intended to evoke the experience of migration, specifically that he documented in 2005, photographing Louisianans who came to Los Angeles after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
At Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill, Ohio-based conceptual artist Ann Hamilton has wrapped the station’s street-level exterior in an abstract pattern, over-under-over (2023), intended to evoke an enveloping thread that the artist sees as akin to the many strands of the transit system. Looming above the station’s platform is an installation featuring two large-scale murals by Los Angeles artist Mungo Thomson, Negative Space (STScI-2015-02) (2023). The murals feature inverted images of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 2015 photos of the Andromeda galaxy.
Perhaps most striking at the Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill station is Pearl C. Hsiung’s multi-storey mosaic, High Prismatic (2023), features geyser-like bursts of colour stretching over a monochrome landscape toward the sky. “I wanted to celebrate the disparate yet harmonious cosmos of images, languages, cultures and relationships that make up the history of this region, it’s ever-churning present and endlessly shifting future,” the Taiwan-born, Los Angeles-based artist said in a statement.
Artists who received commissions for the new stations were selected through an open process following recommendations from an advisery panel of Los Angeles art world figures that included the artists Charles Gaines and Daisy Villa, The Broad curator Ed Schad and the former Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles assistant curator Lanka Tattersall.
These major additions to Los Angeles's public transit art offerings follow similarly enormous commissions that were unveiled in New York earlier this year with the opening of the Grand Central Madison terminal. That vast complex far beneath Midtown Manhattan includes large-scale mosaic murals by Yayoi Kusama and Kiki Smith.