Before Basquiat, before Keith Haring, the street corners of Manhattan in the early 1980s became a canvas for Shadowman. Distinctive figures on walls and alleys were the work of Richard Hambleton, who is considered by many people, the first street artist.
I have to confess that not even I knew of the existence of this great artist. It was after a conversation with our artist Balu that he told us about him. Since then I have not been able to stop documenting myself about Hambleton and I assure you that its history will not leave you indifferent. I recommend the great documentary “Shadowman”, which we will be lucky enough to interview Aitor Mendilibar, who was involved in the project with Oren Jacoby.
Richard Hambleton, was something like an enigma and a sage in the art world. Harnessing the power of expressionism and the living topography of New York, he built a work based on urban art that questioned the sensitivity of his viewers. From staged crime scenes to images of himself and the iconic series of shadow figures painted in violent, energetic strokes, Hambleton reflected the energy of the city upon itself.
Hambleton made a name for himself in the art world of central New York in the late 1970s and 1980s. Working alongside friends and fellow artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, he emerged as one of the best-known names in the street art scene, and his work was quickly accepted by galleries and critics.
However, at the height of his career, he disappeared from the world, following his drug addiction. Hambleton’s fame plummeted when he decided to flee an increasingly corporatized gallery system.
Hambleton’s interest in exhibiting in an art gallery again came in 2011 after Giorgio Armani sponsored an exhibition.
Hambleton spent the end of his days without losing his essence, scheming, brilliant and moody, while still questioning the motives of his sponsors. An honest artist, with integrity, that simply many people took advantage of him and there is some satisfaction in seeing that Hambleton rejected his vast majority.
Hambleton died in 2017, suffering from various ailments, including skin cancer that devoured parts of his face. And while the complexity of their spirit and commitment to art still lives on, there is a lingering feeling that patrons, no matter how benevolent, still win in the end.