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Art on the Amtrak Tracks

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Artist: Katrina Grosse; Photo by Steve Weinik for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Those riding the rails between New York and Washington, D.C., will be cruising through a complete art installation starting May 17. The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, in cooperation with Amtrak, has commissioned Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse to install a series of seven large-scale murals on the blighted warehouses and walls of North Philadelphia.

Titled psychylustro, the public arts project consists of enormous, Christo-like works of intense color popping against the abandoned buildings located between the North Philadelphia and 30th Street stations. An audio guide (available at 215-525-1045), complete with a soundtrack, will let passengers listen to an interview with the artist as the murals fly by.

Grosse, who has a history of working with architecture and installations, doesn’t restrict her choice of canvas to the blank wall. The sites chosen for psychylustro are uneven and riddled with holes, and the entire project embraces planned obsolescence, allowed to decay as the landscape gradually takes back the space.

Monumental and spectacularly vibrant, the murals are meant to inspire viewers to think differently about the area they pass through. “The work arrives to not just alter the appearance of the train ride but also to perhaps alter viewers’ perceptions of the landscape around them,” says curator Elizabeth Thomas, “to consider the histories and futures of such spaces and the varied forces—natural, economic, social—that act on this specific space, but also, in reality, all urban spaces.” muralarts.org/katharinagrosse.

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