A new at installation from Public Art Fund has just been unveiled at the north end of Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn, is inspired by New York City’s 2,000+ handball courts. Entitled Subliminal Standard, the sixteen-foot-tall, 2,090-square-foot surface sculpture is Belgian artist Harald Ancart’s first-ever public art installation, and officially opens tomorrow. The four painted surfaces reference the patterns and abstractions that emerge when concrete handball courts are repaired and repainted over time, but is meant to be an interactive sculpture. Actual handballs were on hand this morning at the press preview but the artist and curator are hoping for this installation to be used in a myriad of ways – not just for handball, but maybe as a stage, possibly for selfies, or for anything that the public organically comes up with. Local children have already started to play ball there and a neighbor walking by excitedly asked if it was a handball court, saying her husband would want to play.
Ancart, who has been exploring the world of handball for over decade as inspiration for his art, has been not only fascinated with the art forms on the surfaces of these courts in an “unexpected relationship to the history of abstraction,” but also the role the game plays in democratizing the city. Handball was popularized in the 20th century by immigrants and the working class, requiring only a wall and a ball. As Public Art Fund Associate Curator Daniel S. Palmer says, “Harold’s sculpture isn’t limited to the sport of handball but is also about creating a space for social interaction. It is a place for others to be in dialogue as participants actively engage with painting by immersing themselves in it….Harold Ancart paints in a highly physical and meditative manner, almost like an athlete engrossed in his sport.”
The artist, Harold Ancart, in front of his work
Ancart says he played a version of it as a child growing up in Brussels, on a wall with a tennis ball. For the artwork itself, he says, “It was very very important not to come up with a plan and also not to try to make a painting that is like, “Oh yeah, that is my good painting in your face, you don’t understand it…Basically it is how it appears naturally, the only twist is the color. I came up with something on the floor that is kind of close to the sky and when it’s sunny it becomes super flashy blue and when it’s like [today], it’s kind of gray-ish.” The other colors, he says, were inspired by the natural and built environment around the site.
Analogously, Ancart himself says that painting itself, is not that difficult “because nothing wrong can really happen unless you have a lot of expectations. If you expect certain things to be precisely a certain way, then you may encounter a lot of problems. But if you don’t expect anything, you can never go wrong because things can only be the way they are, which is right.”
May is going to be a big month for art installations. Stay tuned for our guide tomorrow featuring all the new art to see next month!