Public Art Fund will present Subliminal Standard, an interactive new commission by Brooklyn-based, Belgian-born artist Harold Ancart. The artist has constructed a large scale painted concrete sculpture inspired by New York City’s ubiquitous handball courts, which have fascinated Ancart for years because of their unexpected relationship to the history of abstraction.

The painting will reference the traditional boundary lines of the court and the inadvertent abstract compositions created when city courts 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. The handball court is also the only type of playground that offers a freestanding double-sided wall which, according to the artist, “offers a unique possibility to show painting in a public space.” Ancart’s immersive sculpture will create a place for interaction, while bringing to light the ever-present painterly qualities that inherently exist in the structure of the handball court. 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 expressive gestural marks that live somewhere between abstraction and representation. Ancart developed a series of small wooden sculptures that illustrate the relationship between handball courts, playgrounds, and abstraction. These were made, in part, as preparation for Subliminal Standard. Created specifically for this location, the large painted sculpture at Cadman Plaza Park draws on the forms of these courts. The title of the work poetically references the unintended abstract compositions and patterns created through their use and wear in relation to the standard lines that mark the limits of the playgrounds.

Subliminal Standard is Ancart’s first public art commission in the United States, as well as the first time that the artist will bring his studio practice to the public realm; in April, Ancart will paint directly onto the newly-constructed sixteen-foot-tall, 2,090-square-foot surface of the concrete court sculpture in Cadman Plaza Park enabling the public to see how a major public artwork is created. This site-responsive composition will invite all to engage with painting in a new way.

“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. “However, like David Hammons’s Higher Goals in Cadman Plaza in 1986, which was not only about basketball, 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.”

American handball courts have been a source of inspiration for the artist since 2007, when Ancart moved to New York and began 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 engage with for free during its 10-month run.