Lexington Av/53 St (E/M) & 51 St (6)

Passing Through

Al Held
Artwork in glass mosaic by Al Held showing vast colorful murals with abstract geometric and fluid shapes floating and interacting.
“Passing Through” (2004) by Al Held at NYCT Lexington Av/53 St Station. Photo: Rob Wilson

About the Project

“Passing Through” is one of the last public works of celebrated abstract painter Al Held – it was in the process of being installed at the time of his death. The colorful and exuberant mural reveals an immense universe in which geometric elements of varying shapes and sizes float freely. In the 1960s, Held moved from abstraction to tightly controlled geometric work, with two-dimensional figures suspended on the canvas. Held was curious about how everything is structured and was inspired by theories about the universe and its mysteries. He described his interest in "images that we believe in but that are beyond our senses and that we can never experience directly." There is also another subject, that of buildings and architecture. His imagery powerfully evokes New York City's energy while acknowledging the forms and styles of the Midtown skyscrapers overhead. 

About the Artist

Al Held (1928-2005) was a pioneer of hard-edge, geometric paintings. Born to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn, Held spent two years in the US Navy before attending the Art Students League in New York followed by the Académie de la Grand Chaumière in Paris. Exploring the ability of abstraction to reach beyond the realm of the viewer’s primary senses, Held continually expanded his painterly language and practice, with multiple stylistic changes occurring throughout his career. In 1950s his style reflected an abstract expressionist tone and then transitioned to a geometric style in the ‘60s. During the 1980s, Held shifted again into making paintings that emphasized bright geometric space. Alongside his studio practice. Held also had a long tenure as a faculty member at Yale School of Art. Held works are featured in major exhibitions across the United States and Europe and can be found in the permanent collections of many museums.