We May Not Know ART (Albuquerque Rapid Transit), But We Know What We Don’t Like

The proposed station is “beyond ugly,” she said. – Lauren Austin, CABQ Landmarks Commission member and Huning Highland neighborhood resident, from “Landmark Commission Questions ART Project,” Albuquerque Journal, 4.13.16

You can’t legislate morality, and you may or may not know pornography when you see it, but what about making public policy centered around whether something is “beyond ugly” or not? The above quote raises some interesting questions of subjectivity and how it applies to public decision-making. Of course, the “beyond ugly” object in question is part of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project, specifically the proposed Walter Street Station:


(photo from this Journal story)

Well, is it “beyond ugly”? Personally, I’m more concerned that the cyclist doesn’t appear to be wearing a helmet. Then again, I’m quite fond of this Willem de Kooning (“Woman V”):



And at least a few people like it enough to have it hanging at the National Gallery of Australia, but does that mean it ain’t “beyond ugly”?

The only obvious thing here is that it’s a tad bit of a slippery slope when the Reese’s collision of public policy chocolate runs into the eye of the beholder peanut butter.

While we’re gazing at art and such, how about we take a look or two at the existing streetscape of Central Avenue at Walter, via Google Street View.  Here’s the view looking East:


Is this “beyond ugly”? I’m thinking the lightposts are cool in a historic way, but that a gravel parking lot and Soviet-era architecture medical building is not exactly beautiful in any aesthetic sense. Then again, I like Willem de Kooning’s work.

Let’s look West:


Arguably prettier with more nice lightposts, a nice corner business with rainbow graphic and a view of what constitutes the Burque skyline. Still, were talking parking lots and asphalt a’ plenty.  Putting a concrete-centric ART station here wouldn’t seem to be too much out of character, aesthetically speaking. Then again, I like Willem de Kooning.

All in all, a look at what Central at Walter already looks like almost gives one the impression that opposition to the “beyond ugly” proposed station is really more about opposing ART, period, than any argument over what constitutes attractive art (lower case).

But have I mentioned I like Willem de Kooning (his art, much of it, not his personality. He was quite the massive jerk, at least that’s the impression having read this biography)?

Meanwhile, I think I’ll head to the museum gift shop. I’m suddenly hungry for some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

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