These Harlem icons shine in the newest subway art in the Bronx

Updated: Mar 19, 2020


Artist Rico Gatson's mesmerizing new subway mosaics may be located in the Bronx–the 167th Street Station on the B and D lines, to be precise–but they happen to feature a handful of true Harlem icons: writers James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, musician Tito Puente and poet Maya Angelou.

Rico Gatson's mosaic portrait of Maya Angelou in the 167 St subway station in the Bronx

Commissioned by the MTA, "Beacons" is a series of mosaic portraits featuring eight individuals who "have had an influence on the community in the Bronx or have attained international acclaim for their cultural, political, and artistic contributions," as Gatson recently explained to Hyperallergic. The remaining subjects include Celia Cruz, Reggie Jackson, Gil Scott-Heron, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Rico Gatson's mosaic portrait of Tito Puente in the 167 St subway station

Some in the group, like Sotomayor and Scott-Heron, were born or raised in the Bronx. But the remainder connect to the borough in other ways.

Two of the four featured Harlemites spent significant time in New York's northernmost borough at different times in their lives. Baldwin, who was born and raised in Harlem, attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx (he worked on the school magazine alongside Richard Avedon). Harlem-born Puente played at a long list of clubs in the Bronx, including Jimmy's Bronx Cafe.

Rico Gatson's mosaic portrait of Audre Lorde in the 167 St subway station in the Bronx

Hop on a train to this permanent underground gallery and pick your own inspirational icon–be they from Harlem, the Bronx, or beyond.

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