‘optimism.’ Oh.

The MTA has been printing the word “optimism” on MetroCards since September, but no one seems to have noticed until The Times did, extensively, this week.

The tastefully lower-case abstract noun is printed in black-and-white sans serif letters. It is the work of artist/graphic designer Reed Seifer:

“I’ve always loved art that exists in unexpected places,” he said recently, near his home in Hell’s Kitchen. “I like that maybe not everyone’s going to see it. Or maybe one day you just look and say, ‘Oh.’ ”

Because MTA’s “Arts for Transit” projects tend toward mosaics and stained glass, this might seem to be a bold conceptual gesture. But let’s not get carried away with ourselves. As Roberta Smith writes, confusingly:

“The starkness of the black-on-white print is a familiar art-world trope. The MetroCard piece is easily eighth-generation Conceptual Art. But perhaps it is more interesting as proof that Conceptual Art is the new folk art and has been for some time and that one person’s Conceptual Art is another’s graphic design.”

Besides, Jackie Chang’s black-and-white sans serif “Same / Sane” mosaic at the Metropolitan G stop is way more cryptic.

“optimism”: If there is a better encapsulation of the taste-by-committee blandness that can plague public art, it’s not clear what it would be. ‘optimism.’ Oh.