About the Exhibition
On May 1, Public Art Fund will present Subliminal Standard, a new commission by Brooklyn-based, Belgian-born artist Harold Ancart inspired by New York City’s ubiquitous handball courts, which have fascinated the artist for years. For this exhibition, Ancart will construct a large-scale, playable painted concrete handball court in Downtown Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park. He will paint the walls and floor of this two-sided structure that modifies the proportions of a traditional handball court, forming a new site-responsive composition. The mural painting will reference the court’s playable boundary lines as well as the inadvertent abstract compositions created when other courts throughout the city are repaired and repainted to mask graffiti and weathering over time. Popularized by early 20th century immigrants to the United States, handball is among the most democratic sports, requiring nothing more than a small ball and a wall to play. Ancart’s immersive painted sculpture brings a new context to this quintessential New York City game, merging contemporary art and recreational sport to create an engaging and inclusive experience. Harold Ancart: Subliminal Standard will be on view May 1, 2019 – March 1, 2020 at the north end of Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn.
A leading voice of his generation, Ancart has pushed the limits of painting, with works that blur the line between sculpture, painting, and drawing. He’s become known for his signature style of gestural jagged marks and graphic swaths of color that live somewhere between abstraction and representation. Ancart has created a series of smaller-scale painted plywood handball courts in preparation for this project. Subliminal Standard is the culmination of these works on a massive scale and Ancart’s first public art commission in the United States. Its title poetically references the standard set of colors used to paint courts’ area of play as well as the unintended abstract compositions and patterns created through their use and wear. Subliminal Standard is the first time that the artist will bring his studio practice to the public realm; in April, Ancart will paint directly onto a newly-constructed sixteen-foot-tall concrete court sculpture in Cadman Plaza Park enabling the public to see how a major public artwork is created.
“Harold Ancart paints in a highly physical and meditative manner, almost like an athlete engrossed in his sport,” says Public Art Fund Associate Curator Daniel S. Palmer. “His work always has a forceful directness that captivates the viewer within his compelling compositions. By bringing his practice to a public space, we can now physically experience Ancart’s immersive painted environment with the same vigor, as participants actively engaging through play.”
The urban sport of American handball has been a source of inspiration for the artist since 2007, when Ancart moved to New York and began to notice these “democratic walls, waiting for murals,” while wandering his Brooklyn neighborhood. The game became popular during the Great Depression as both a social activity and sport for the working and immigrant classes in New York City. Today, there are over 2,000 handball courts across all five boroughs, and the game remains as popular, accessible, and egalitarian as ever. Ancart sees public art and mural painting – which grew to prominence in Mexico and the United States around the same time – as handball’s correlative in visual culture because of the way murals successfully transform vacant walls and bring beauty directly to the public. Both a commanding sculpture and interactive installation, Subliminal Standard will be open for the public to enjoy and play upon for free during its 10-month run.