Penn Station’s Art at Amtrak had a redo, and it’s impressive!

An artist’s impressions of 1970’s Jazz, indigenous African art, combined with New York City’s energy combine for a very special experience at the nation’s largest transportation hub. Look up, commuters, for a visual treat

| 16 Jun 2024 | 02:03

Rico Gaston has a unique way of creating art, combining the unique elements that make living in New York City invigorating. His new collection of art, entitled Untitled (Collective Light Transfer) covers Penn Station’s upper level concourse from now through the summer. Light, color and culture have.combined in a unique blending to stop commuters and pedestrians, make them think, and, perhaps, create a smile on their faces.

This artist paints of the ideas and inspirations he has seen and thought about during his life. There are diverse streams of spirituality, African, Native and Indigenous art infused through his works. Jazz of the 70s plays a role, as well, embraced with abstract mathematics. His canvas displays well on the upper level rotunda and the main concourse near Eighth Avenue. The geometric patterns mix with specific colors, magic of the work makes the two large spaces pulse with diverse energy. Geometry comes into play in a most friendly manner, unlike those high school classes. Lines and circles provide yet another dimension to the art.

Gatson, whose professional credits include a Masters of Fine Art from Yale, is a tall, disarmingly pleasant man. After completing that degree, he moved to NYC in 1991 and has been a resident since. He provided an exclusive interview with Straus News, and spoke of his newest artwork that he infused with his interests.

“I grew up in Riverside California, and spent a lot of my youth listening to jazz—the giants of jazz in the late 60s and the early 70s. Miles Davis, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Roy Haynes, Sun Ra and others— a love for that era defines a bridge between traditional jazz and much of the free form that we know today, I just couldn’t stop being amazed with their music.” he stated as a start. He continued, “The seven panels you see before you in the rotunda is like a really tight jazz set, and when the solos happen, they still keep the cohesion. Music has a resonance; I want these to be in a cohesive movement like a tight rhythm.”

With a residence in Queens, and a studio in Bushwick since 2004, he knows the moods of the City that we live in, Gatson related that if you live in NYC for 15 years, you are a native. He was excited to have the presentation in Penn Station in New York City, in his words, “The center of the center!” The artist was selected for the Art at Amtrak program by curator Debra Simon after she saw his glass murals installation at a subway station in the Bronx.

Gatson added, “The totality of spaces working together, this is like very tight jazz. I used the color black to accentuate the more vibrant colors. The book Black Fractals was very important to me; as a reference, the African architecture and indigenous art mentioned help me shape this piece.”

Towards the end of the interview, he mused on the interior space and the process; “To me, it’s a spiritual thing here. There is great energy in this space, a calming, spiritual thing—Penn Station as it relates to both passengers and time. Energy extends up the columns!”

With modern technology, Artist Gaston was able to visualize in advance the best positioning for each panel.

At the end of the interview, he noted that his 21-year old daughter wanted to become an artist as well. Given the seismic changes in artwork, seemingly every day, he stated “I don’t know what her art will be like...”

If it is anything like her fathers’, it’s going to be amazing.

Art at Amtrak launched in June 2022 and has commissioned temporary installations for New York Penn Station by New York and New Jersey artists. In 2023, the initiative grew to include the Metropolitan Lounge at Moynihan Train Hall, The program has been curated by Debra Simon Art Consulting since the beginning.

Gatson’s maiden foray into NYC transportation artwork is evident in his 2019 glass murals at the Bronx 167th Street B/D subway station. Eight notables (Gil Scott-Heron, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Reggie Jackson, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor), each with some Bronx involvement, In New York City, his work is in the permanent collection of the Studio Museum of Harlem. Also in his resume? There have been many local group and solo exhibitions at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, Exit Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, New Museum of Contempory Art and P.S. 1A. He will have a solo show at the Miles McEnery Gallery on West 22nd Street in September.