Subway art: From the Ñ train to LOTR service alerts (slide show)

The subway takes center stage in these street art projects—poking fun, commenting on society and generally brightening our morning commute

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     Z Street Art is changing the N train to the Ñ train in the New York City subway

Z Street Art is changing the N train to the Ñ train in the New York City subway Photograph: Leah Butterfield

With Banksy’s monthlong residency fading from everyday chatter, we thought it only fair to appreciate a few of the local street artists who use the city as their canvas. And what venue is more worthy of exploration than our grimy, unpredictable but unavoidable subway system? Click through the photos below to check out some current street art projects that we’re loving, all set in that quintessentially New York space.


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  • Photograph courtesy Puck Works

    Street artist Puck Works is behind these hilarious fake service advisories, which fall under the auspices of the Middle Earth Subway Transit. Most are Lord of the Rings–themed, as with this recent Uruk-hai alert. The MTA-style poster advises, “Make for the refuge of Helm’s Deep,” and includes a warning quote from Gimli, the dwarf warrior—a little bit more dramatic than, say, “Transfer to a free shuttle bus.” The cheeky notices appear in various stations around town; this one graced the Fulton St 2/3 platform, the 28th St 6 station and the Hoyt St 2/3 stop. Some of our fave past notices include “Don't be so hasty... Allow an Ent to exit the train car first,” complete with Elvish translation, and a “Plant and Protect: Fangorn Recovery Work” notice, offering shuttle horses as an alternate mode of transportation.

  • Photograph: Leah Butterfield

    Frequent N train riders may have noticed a nonauthorized rebranding of the transit line as the Ñ in the last few months. Z Street Art is behind the renaming, the first component in a six-month-long project. According to its Tumblr, the group aims to honor "the 24.28% of Spanish-speakers in New York City" by adding a black tilde sticker above ns throughout the city. Looks like the collective may have gotten the idea from the group Linea Ñ, which was hoping to legally change the yellow line's spelling for Hispanic Heritage Month each year. 

  • Photograph: Jilly Ballistic

    Jilly Ballistic’s subway art ranges from the pithy to the philosophical and is often a combination of the two. This recent faux subway advisory, pasted up earlier this month in the Columbus Circle station, is labeled a “Policy Advisory” and counsels, “The End is Relative.” We love a thought-provoking one-liner, and this one rocks for its meta-ness (it can relate to your daily commute, art, life in general…). In addition to advisory posters, Ballistic also fills the transit system with statement-making images of people in gas masks and doctored advertisement text, adding some words to a McDonald’s ad, for example, so that it says, “So many choices, so little nutritional value.” Be on the lookout during your local commute and check the artist's Flickr page to see the latest work.

  • Photograph via Poster Boy / Flickr

    Poster Boy (that's Henry Matyjewicz to his friends) has been active in the subway art scene since 2008, or so his Flickr page tells us. As his moniker suggests, the artist generally leaves his mark on large in-station advertisements. (He does some cool street-level work, too, including a recent outdoor art project in Cuba.) Using only a razor, he enacted his latest clever commercial transformation on some brightly colored iPhone ads. Using recognizable characters such as Kermit the Frog, SpongeBob SquarePants and Cookie Monster, Poster Boy added a regular set of eyes to create an “eyePhone” and half-closed, bloodshot eyes for a “hiPhone.”

Photograph courtesy Puck Works

Street artist Puck Works is behind these hilarious fake service advisories, which fall under the auspices of the Middle Earth Subway Transit. Most are Lord of the Rings–themed, as with this recent Uruk-hai alert. The MTA-style poster advises, “Make for the refuge of Helm’s Deep,” and includes a warning quote from Gimli, the dwarf warrior—a little bit more dramatic than, say, “Transfer to a free shuttle bus.” The cheeky notices appear in various stations around town; this one graced the Fulton St 2/3 platform, the 28th St 6 station and the Hoyt St 2/3 stop. Some of our fave past notices include “Don't be so hasty... Allow an Ent to exit the train car first,” complete with Elvish translation, and a “Plant and Protect: Fangorn Recovery Work” notice, offering shuttle horses as an alternate mode of transportation.


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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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