Richard Art Hambleton (June 23, 1952 – October 29, 2017) was a Canadian artist known for his work as a street artist. He was a surviving member of a group that emerged from the New York City art scene during the booming art market of the 1980s, which also included Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. While often associated with graffiti art, Hambleton considered himself a conceptual artist who made both public art and gallery works.
Hambleton’s early public art included his Image Mass Murder art. From 1976 to 1978 Hambleton painted a police “chalk” outline around bodies of volunteer “homicide victims.” He then splashed some red paint on the outline, leaving behind a realistic looking crime scene. These “crime scenes” were done on the streets of 15 major cities across the United States and Canada. Like Hambleton’s future “Shadowman” paintings, the Image Mass Murder “crime scenes” would often have the effect of startling or shocking passersby.
In 1979 Hambleton moved permanently to the Lower East Side of New York. It was in New York that Hambleton gained notoriety for his “Shadowman” paintings of the early 1980s. Each painting resembles a life-sized silhouetted image of some mysterious person, a “splashy shadow figure.” These “shadow paintings” were splashed and brushed with black paint on hundreds of buildings and other structures across New York City. Locations were believed to be calculated for maximum impact upon unsuspecting pedestrians. Very often, a “Shadowman” could be found in a dark alley or lurking just around a street corner. Hambleton later expanded the scope of his project and painted these “shadowmen” in other cities, including Paris, London and Rome, and in 1984 he painted 17 life-size figures on the East side of the Berlin Wall, returning a year later to paint more figures on the West side of the wall. In 1983, during Malcolm McLaren’s fashion design partnership with Vivienne Westwood, they collaborated with Hambleton to create a “Shadowman” jersey skirt.
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