Richard Hambleton (b. Vancouver, Canada 1952) was one of the most prominent and influential figures of the downtown New York art scene. After receiving his Bachelors of Fine Arts in painting and art history from the Emily Carr School of Art in 1974, Hambleton launched his “Mass Murder” series. The series was painted on the streets of over fifteen cities across Canada and the United States. Hambleton would outline friends in chalk drawings, splashing them with red paint to mimic the remnants of a crime scene.
In 1979, Hambleton moved permanently to the Lower East Side of New York. It was here that Hambleton gained notoriety for his "Shadowman" paintings of the early 1980s. Over the course of the next decade, his ominous silhouettes painted in unsuspecting corners, alleys, and side streets had appeared in over six hundred locations in major cities including New York City, London, Paris, as well as both sides of the Berlin Wall.
A departure from the spontaneity of the traditional street tag, Hambleton’s paintings were site-specific conceptual works intended to provoke unsuspecting pedestrians with a sobering moment of contemplation. His first solo exhibition opened in the Lower East Side of New York in 1982, and just two years later, his work was included in the Venice Biennale. He was included in the Venice Biennale again in 1988. From 2009-2011, a major retrospective was mounted in collaboration with Giorgio Armani, touring multiple venues that included the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Phillips de Pury in New York. Hambleton's work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, and the Brooklyn Museum. Shadowman, a film about Hambleton by director Oren Jacoby, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21, 2017. Hambleton continued to live and work in New York until his death in 2017.
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By Natasha Gural