Harold Ancart handball court opens at Cadman Plaza

Harold Ancart, Subliminal Standard at Cadman Plaza Park presented by Public Art Fund, 2019, Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

“Subliminal Standard,” a large-scale playable painted sculpture inspired by the handball courts of Belgian artist Harold Ancart is now on view at Cadman Plaza, on the border of historic Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn.

Ancart said he was inspired by the way the city casually paints graffiti on the city’s more than 2,000 handball courts, leaving traces of the past that don’t match the new colors and textures of the present.

“When you walk around you notice that not only the walls of handball but a lot of the infrastructure in New York are relentlessly repainted, and that in a very nonchalant way, which I find very beautiful,” said Ancart.

“When this process is repeated over the years, it gives birth to these incredible paintings. … It’s as if they make a point of using a color that is slightly different from the other.

Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

The Brooklyn-based artist spent part of April painting the walls and floors of the 2,100-square-foot sculpture.

The work, commissioned by the Public Art Fund, will be on display at the northern end of the park for 10 months until March 1, 2020.

In order to replicate the thinking of the city’s workers, Ancart said he had to approach the project casually without really thinking about the physical painting process.

“If you want to work in the same spirit as the workers, it was absolutely useless to come up with a plan,” he said. “When you forget that you are painting and you really start to get deeply into the painting – and the writing activity can be the same – you get lost in it and it prompts you to put on paper words that you don’t know. would never have found if you weren’t lost in the business of writing.

Harold Ancart is working on the mural in April.  Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY
Harold Ancart is working on the mural in April. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

The immersive piece highlights a quintessentially New York City game, played in parks and schoolyards across the city, and marks the artist’s first public art commission in the United States.

Ancart said he first fell in love with the surfaces, which he called “democratic walls awaiting murals,” as he walked through his Brooklyn neighborhood.

“A handball court is the only structure that offers free-standing walls,” said Ancart. “Whatever happens, it’s always perfectly framed and it’s framed in the air. My idea was very simple. Let’s do the same, but instead of using a grayish palette, let’s push the palette and give these phantom monuments a poetic moment.

The artwork also whimsically plays on the surrounding environment of Cadman Plaza based on the weather, lighting, shadows, and movement of humans nearby.

“These paintings without painters are so much in sync with the traditions, history and canon of abstract painting,” said the fund’s associate curator Daniel S. Palmer. Brooklyn eagle. “The way he reacted to the environment around the artwork has worked very successfully.

“There is a sort of tan color on the south side of the yard that matches some of the colors of the buildings nearby and the blue of the ground reflects the sky so perfectly on a clear sunny day.”

A park enthusiast plays handball on Ancart's work.  Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY
A park enthusiast plays handball on Ancart’s work. Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

The exhibition marks a return to Cadman Plaza of the fusion of art and sport. One of the fund’s most famous exhibitions, “Higher Goals” by David Hammons, was shown in the green space in 1986. It featured basketball hoops on dazzled telephone poles covered with eccentric objects.

This is also not the first time that the Public Art Fund has commissioned an artist to present a New York staple. Erwin Wurm’s “Hot Dog Bus,” which debuted last June, featured a vintage Volkswagen Microbus that has been transformed into a bloated and bizarre hot dog stand. The iconic Big Apple street food was originally immigrant food and also had roots in Brooklyn.

The organization commissioned several other significant pieces in Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn that also complemented and played out the surrounding urban environment.

“Bridge Over Tree” by Iranian artist Siah Armajani is currently playing at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The artwork features a 91-foot-long walkway with a set of stairs that ascend and descend on a single evergreen tree. It is located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

In May 2017, the group brought “Descension” from Anish Kapoor, a 26-foot-wide hot tub, to Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

A year earlier, the group had installed Martin Creed’s “Understanding,” a 25-foot-tall rotating neon sculpture, at Pier 6.

The association also exhibited “Please Touch The Art” by Jeppe Hein in the park in May 2015, which featured a series of interactive sculptures, mirrors and fountains.

Not far from Cadman Plaza, the Public Art Fund also installed “Fences” by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in a bus shelter in downtown Brooklyn.

“Subliminal Standard” will be on display at Cadman Plaza Park until March 1, 2020.

Follow the reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.