Court is out: Handball sculpture rolls into Downtown

Tall wall: A sculpture in the form of a handball court, designed by contemporary artist Harold Ancart, will stand in Cadman Plaza Park until March 2020.
Public Art Fund

It’s an art installation, apparently!

A handball court with a colorful paint job has popped up in Cadman Plaza Park in America’s Downtown. But this is no ordinary ball-smacking surface: the 16-foot high structure is actually an interactive sculpture titled “Subliminal Standard.” It is the brainchild of Brooklyn artist Harold Ancart, who painstakingly modeled his creation after the varied color scheme used by the Zen-like maestros of the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Walking around, I notice the walls, that are graffitied, and then the Parks Department appoints people to repaint them, and it’s as if they have a point of honor in using a color that is slightly different,” said Harold Ancart. “When the process repeats itself over the years, it gives birth to these incredible natural paintings. And they’re really good because the people who paint them are extremely nonchalant, and have no intention at all.”

The sculpture, officially unveiled on April 30, stands starkly in the center of a grass field like an extraterrestrial artifact from a sci-fi story. Despite its vibrant color scheme, Ancart says that the ubiquity of the city’s 2,000-plus handball courts makes his work of high art something you might completely overlook.

“You can almost put a handball court anywhere, even though it’s like this massive whale, and it will blend perfectly in the landscape because it’s already everywhere,” he said.

Ancart developed his installation in concert with the Public Art Fund, which brought the interactive “Bridge Over Tree” to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The group gave Ancart the opportunity to re-imagine the court as an artistic blank canvas, he said.

“What is wonderful about a handball court, from the point of view of a painter, is that it is the only structure that offers free standing walls,” he said. “So basically, whatever is going on in there is already perfectly framed in midair.”

Ancart said he felt liberated to “perfectly frame” a series of yellow, red, light blue, and grey rectangles, because the installation barely felt like art at all.

“It’s good that you can almost engage with this abstract painting, as a painter, without having to care about the weight of the history of art, or anything on your shoulders, because it’s a playground. It’s fun,” he said.

To the surprise of no-one who views the work, Ancart took inspiration from the creative chaos of the city and began his piece without plotting it in advance.

“If you really want to pay tribute to what happens naturally in the city, in general, I think it was very, very important not to come up with a plan.”

The artist said that the sculpture will evolve as it deteriorates over its 11-month exhibition.

“Something fantastic about this is that it’s outside, the weather changes, the light changes, shadows get cast on it, so they start participating in the painting. Things will wear out, dirt will mix with the rest of the painting,” he said. “It’s good to decay.”

“Subliminal Standard” at Cadman Plaza Park (North Lawn between Cadman Plaza East and Cadman Plaza West, Downtown, www.publicartfund.org). On display daily, May 1–March 1, 2020. Free.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Monolith: The Public Art Fund has errected a colorful handball court, titled “Subliminal Standard,” in Downtown.
Public Art Fund

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