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The Columnist


Stephen Robin’s new public work, “A Walk through the Woods,” took me on a walk through the bowels of a PATCO subway station at 12th and Locust last Sunday. (Image right)

“Walk,” which spiffs up a bunch of lowly support columns below ground at two PATCO stops in Center City (the other is at 15th/16th St.) is a thing of beauty so gorgeous and unexpected it’s a true gift.

The low relief, cast aluminum panels depict the flora of Pennsylvania and New Jersey as if caught under glass and bursting to get out. Soft-edged and welcoming, your first impulse is to touch them. (Detail left)

Normal subway behavior is to look down, up, away — anywhere but straight ahead where you might meet the eye of another human being. And keep your hands to yourself, as the good nuns say. But Robin’s columns, which are lined up like sentinels or other subway riders waiting their turn to pass, invite your gaze. You can look them in the eye, even cop a feel.

Nature’s irrepressible energy is a complete anachronism in this underground environment. And that makes it all the sweeter.

Robin, who shows his sculpture at Gallery Joe and is known for his large, contemplative, public projects which use motifs from nature (see detail of “Federal Triangle Flowers” a Washington, D.C. piece) has endowed the underground space with grace and uplift.


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