Richard Hambleton created side by side with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and ‘Shadowman’ is his troubled story.
Shadowman is a gripping and intense story of 80s graffiti artist Richard Hambleton – street art precursor who left his mark on the New York City art scene alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring and whose work influenced Banksy among others.
In Shadowman, director Oren Jacoby paints a portrait of self-sabotaging, drug-driven and cancer-ridden man, who most of all hated any kind of control.
The film is a linear documentary, guiding the viewer through Hambleton’s 1970s beginnings, when he moved to New York City from his native Canada, to his spreading fame in the 80s when he made a name for himself by painting his brushed-black conceptual shadow figures on the streets of a run-down New York, his disappearance from the art scene due to drug abuse to his ultimate attempt at comeback in 2000s. But as the film shows, his revival was to Hambleton morbidly meaningless.
Jacoby worked hard to recreate the atmosphere of 80s New York City and create a compelling body of work, including black and white footage of Hambleton painting his famed shadow figures and reimagining the Marlboro Man. On top of that, scenes from the squat which clearly indicate artists struggle with addictions.
Shadowman’s climax hinges on 2009’s retrospective of Hambleton’s work, where gallerists Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida worked with Giorgio Armani to present the artist to new audiences – from his Shadowmen to the Marlboro Man-inspired work and also the “beautiful paintings.” But to Hambleton, this doesn’t seem important at all. Destroyed by his drug use, decaying inside-out, with scoliosis and cancer eating out half of his face, he rebells once more.
Working around the system, and driving his longtime friends and supporters crazy, Hambleton reached the age of 65, far outliving Basquiat (who died at 27) and Haring (dead at 31), but in his own words:
At least Basquiat, you know, died. I was alive and I died, you know. That’s the problem.
Richard Hambleton continued to paint until his death on October 19, 2017 and Shadowman is the perfect tribute to this troubled yet pivotal artist of the New York City’s street art scene.
The movie premieres in select theaters in New York on December 1 and Los Angeles on December 8.