Richard Hambleton

Canada 1952 - 2017

Street Art, Conceptual Art

Richard Hambleton
Richard Hambleton
November 6, 2017
Bojan is an author for Widewalls. He is particularly interested in English linguistics and culture. Bojan is also interested in Photography and Digital Art.

The context and the roots of street art are much clearer when the work of Richard Hambleton comes in sight despite the fact the artist himself categorized his production as public art. The way he articulated his personal urban experience was always a direct reaction to the existing situation, so his works provide a refined insight in social and political shifts of the times. Therefore, the whole artistic practice of Richard Hambleton, a godfather of street art, as he was called very often, is considered as conceptual one.

This authentic American artist is known for use walls as media as well as use of canvas
Richard Hambleton – Untitled – image via nextdecadedisciplines.blogspot

Artistic Education

Richard Hambleton was born in 1952 is in Vancouver, Canada. He earned Bachelor in Fine Arts degree at the Emily Carr School of Art in Vancouver 1975. Hambleton was Founder and Co-Director of Pumps Center for Alternative Art, which was an art gallery, performance, and video space, and shortly after went on to graduate from the San Francisco Institute of Art in San Francisco. He was the member of a group, together with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, coming out of the New York City art scene during the booming art market of the 1980s.

The mysterious “suite” portraits

His work was on view in Lower East Side gallery as well in various other spaces
Richard Hambleton – Untitled – image via pinterest

Street As A Source Of Inspiration

Quite early Hambleton decided to expose his works on the street walls as opposed to exhibiting them in galleries, despite the fact that such an artistic expression was already present in public spaces long before. Nevertheless, his name came to prominence in between 1976 to 1978 when he was releasing fictitious murder scenes by painting with a police chalk outline around bodies of volunteer homicide victims. The works titled Image Mass Murder were splashed with red paint on the outline, leaving behind a realistic looking crime scene. These paintings were done on the streets of 15 major cities across the United States and Canada, and would often have the effect of startling or shocking passersby.

With these works, Richard Hambleton focused on the power of the viewer’s imagination

the artist released a number of landscape paintings
Richard Hambleton – Standing Shadow, 2009 – image via shortlistmagazine (Left) Shadow Man painting – image via liveauctioneers (Right)

Further Development of Richard Hambleton

The artist’s reputation grew and he was even described as a Psychic Terrorist and a Sick Jokester by the press. In 1979, Hambleton moved to New York and started working on a new project called Shadowman. Those works depicted a life-sized silhouetted image of some mysterious person and were splashed and brushed with black paint in an authentic manner. Located on hundreds of buildings and other structures across New York City, Shadowman series were usually painted in dark allies or lurking just around a street corner. The project was later extended to other cities, including Paris, London, and Rome.

This project was an extension of the previous concept

The news about his activity can be found on the official web page of Woodward gallery
Richard Hambleton – Horse & Rider, 2008 – image via shortlistmagazine (Left) Marlboro Rodeo, Surgeon General in Marlboro Country, 1984 – image via woodwardgallery (Right)

Shadow Play

The apparent fascination with mystery was later upgraded, so the shadow entity was no longer a completely displaced character, it had become a riding figure, a cowboy or the Marlboro Man. Under that title, Richard Hambleton painted the series on canvas and other materials, so they can be displayed in a gallery space. He was inspired by the Marlboro (cigarette) advertisements and created a composition with a ghostly figure often followed by the Marlboro lettering font. Those works possess at the same time sensibility typical of New York New and No Wave scene of times as well as the reference to Pop Art. In 1983, fashion icons Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood collaborated with Hambleton to create a Shadowman jersey skirt.

Despite the flow of time, Hambleton remained loyal to depersonalized portraits

The media published news about shadow man project which was on view in several American museums
Richard Hambleton – Untitled – image via fadmagazine (Left) Untitled, 2017 – image via prweb (Right)

Tough, Yet Productive Time for Richard Hambleton

Similar to his before mentioned peers Basquiat and Haring, Hambleton let himself go the charms of decadence. The drug culture took him over, so he practically disappeared from the art world. Nevertheless, in retrospect, the artist showed the body of work which he had produced regardless of addiction and decay. It was a series of quieter landscapes titled Beautiful Paintings, which differed much from his black and white style. Namely, he used transparent paint on a metallic leaf background in order to reflect light and color and according to the artist’s words a reaction against the abundance of figurative paintings displayed in galleries at the time.

Hambleton continues to be a working model for emerging street and conceptual artists

According to the privacy of the galleries representing Hambleton you can follow news about his practice
Richard Hambleton – Landscape , 1999 – image via paddle8

The Significance of Hambleton’s Work

The works of this established artist have been shown internationally and can be found in major museums and private collections. In addition to his international success is the fact that in 1984, he has released 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 Berlin Wall. Hambleton’s rise to success in the New York art scene, as well as his widely reported struggle with drug addiction, became a central story of the film Shadowman which was directed by Oren Jacoby. Although Richard Hambleton became best known as a conceptual artist and was one of the founding figures of the Lower East Side art movement in New York City, he continued producing fresh, inviting and inspiring artworks until his death on October 29th, 2017 at the age of 65.

Featured image: Richard Hambleton, photo credits Hank O Neal
All images are used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2017Richard Hambleton: I Only Have Eyes For YouWoodward Gallery, NYCSolo
2016Scribble, Scratch, Paint- Once Removed- 13 Windows, 13 Artists- One WallThe Windows at NYU Kimmel GalleryGroup
2015Réelles Distorsions - Andres Dobler/ Sylvie Fleury/ Richard Hambleton/ Hayan Kam Nakache/ Stephane KropfXippas Gallery, ParisGroup
2015All Together Different: A Survey of Working Artists on the Lower East SideManny Cantor Center, New York, NYGroup
201520in15Woodward Gallery, NYC Group
2014Sur-RealWoodward Gallery, NYC Group
2014Loisaida: New York’s Lower East Side in the ‘80’sAddison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA Group
2013Beautiful PaintingsArt Gallery at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Sleepy Hollow, NYSolo
2013Ghost Girl Corn MazeBarton Orchard, Poughquag, NYCGroup
2013From the Street UpWoodward Gallery, NYC Group
2013PrintWoodward Gallery, NYC Group
2011Richard Hambleton: A RetrospectivePhillips de Pury & Company, New YorkSolo
2011On Every StreetSamuel Owen Gallery, Greenwich, CTGroup
2011Art in the StreetsMoCA, Los Angeles, CA Group
2011Pantheon: A History of Street Art in New York CityDonnell Library Building across from MoMA, New York, NY Group
2010Richard Hambleton New York, The Godfather of Street ArtThe Dairy, LondonSolo
2010Richard Hambleton New YorkState Museum of Modern Art of the Russian Academy of Arts, MoscowSolo
2010Richard Hambleton New YorkMilanSolo
2010Richard Hambleton New YorkamFAR Annual BenefitSolo
2010NEVER RECORDS: Part of No Longer Empty’s, Never Can Say GoodbyeThe former Tower Records at Broadway and West 4th, New York, NY Group
2010BIG Paper WinterWoodward Gallery, NYCGroup
2009Richard Hambleton New YorkNew York, NYSolo
2008Off the Wall, From Vandalism to Urban ArtWilde Gallery, Berlin Group
2008Punk. No One is InnocentKunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria Group
2008Stoked Benefit Art AuctionMilk Gallery at Phillips de Pury, New York, NY Group
2008Works on PaperWoodward Gallery at the Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY Group
2007The Beautiful PaintingsWoodward Gallery, New YorkSolo
2007Behind the SeenAd Hoc Art, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2007Contemporary Art Society Benefit AuctionMilwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI Group
2007The Media: Reaction, Reflections, and Comments on the Culture of MediaCity of Brea Art Gallery, Brea, CA Group
2006Gallery Artists ‘06-’07Woodward Gallery, New York, NY Group
2006The New York Art Scene 1974-1984Grey Art Gallery, New YorkGroup
2005Vintage East VillageHal Bromm Gallery, New York Group
2004East Village USANew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY Group
2003The Green Home ShowWinter Palace, Staten Island, NY Group
2002Shadows and LandscapesStudio Andrea Gobbi, Rome, ItalySolo
2002Eighties Art StarsFountain Walk, Charleston, SC Group
1998Urban EncountersNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY Group
1989Re-presenting LandscapeNew York Studio School of Painting and Sculpture, New York, NY Group
1989Abstraction as LandscapeGallery Urban, New York, NY Group
1985Richard HambletonPiezo Electric Gallery, New YorkSolo
1985Richard HambletonSalvatore Ala Gallery, Milano, ItalySolo
1985Richard HambletonZellermayer Galerie, East Berlin, GermanySolo
1985Richard HambletonMuseo DeArte Costaricense, Costa Rica, SpainSolo
1985SyndestheticsPS 1, Long Island City, New York Group
1985Smart Art: New Work from New YorkCarpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA Group
1985MirrorsEast Hampton Center for Contemporary Art, East Hampton, NY Group
1984121Antwerp, BelgiumSolo
1984Richard HambletonAnna Friebe Galerie, Cologne, GermanySolo
1984Richard HambletonGalerie Barbara Farber, AmsterdamSolo
1984Richard HambletonGalerie Salvatore Ala, Milano, ItalySolo
1984Richard HambletonSalvatore Ala Gallery, New YorkSolo
1984UnknownPiezo Electric, New York, New YorkGroup
1984Of the StreetsUniversity of Colorado, AspenGroup
1984East Village ArtistsThe Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VirginiaGroup
1984East Village SceneInstitute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaGroup
1984Activated WallsThe Queens Museum, New YorkGroup
1984Chill OutKenkeleba House, New YorkGroup
1984Romance and CatastropheZellermayer Gallerie, East Berlin, GermanyGroup
1984Sculpture NowAnna Friebe Galerie, Koln, GermanyGroup
198425,000 Sculptors from Across the USACivilian Warfare, New YorkGroup
1984Aperto ‘84BIENNALE DIE VENEZIA, Venice, ItalyGroup
1984Body PoliticTower Gallery, New YorkGroup
1984SituationBess Cutler Gallery, New YorkGroup
1984Galleries of the Lower East SideArtist Space, New YorkGroup
1984LimboPS 1, Long Island City, New YorkGroup
1984Abstract PersonaDramatis Personae Gallery, New YorkGroup
1983Richard HambletonPiezo Electric, New YorkSolo
1983Richard HambletonCivilian Warefare, New YorkSolo
1983Richard HambletonLimbo Lounge, New YorkSolo
1983UnknownPersonae Gallery, New YorkGroup
1983UnknownPiezo Electric, New YorkGroup
1983Vancouver: art and artists 1931-1983Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BCGroup
1983UnknownRonald Feldman Gallery, New YorkGroup
1983Black and White ShowKenkelba Gallery, New YorkGroup
1983UnknownGracie Mansion Gallery, New YorkGroup
1983UnknownGalleri Cassandra, NorwayGroup
1983Seventh Annual ForgioneNew YorkGroup
1983Food For Soup KitchensFashion Moda, Bronx, New YorkGroup
1983UnknownTweed Gallery, New JerseyGroup
1983UnknownWeatherspoon Art Gallery, North CarolinaGroup
1983UnknownGreenville County Museum of Art, South CarolinaGroup
1983UnknownAmerican Graffiti Gallery, AmsterdamGroup
1983Group Material- SubcultureNew YorkGroup
1983UnknownInternational Running Center, New YorkGroup
1983Terminal New YorkBrooklyn Army Terminal, Brooklyn, NY Group
1982Richard Hambleton, Alexander MillikenEast Village Gallery, New YorkSolo
1982Richard HambletonFlavio Belli Gallery, Toronto, CanadaSolo
1982Art on the BeachCreative Time’s, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownSecond Story Books, BaltimoreGroup
1982The Real Estate ShowABC No Rio, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownClub 57, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownStorefront for Art and Architecture, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownPyramid, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownCheltenham Art Center, PennsylvaniaGroup
1982UnknownAlexander Milliken Gallery, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownSquat Theater, New YorkGroup
1982UnknownSarah Lawrence College Gallery, New YorkGroup
1981Richard HambletonVehicule Center for Art, Vancouver, CanadaSolo
1981UnknownWhite Columns, New YorkGroup
1981UnknownABC No Rio, New YorkGroup
1981UnknownClub 57, New YorkGroup
1981UnknownPublic Image Gallery, New YorkGroup
19819th Street Survival ShowNew YorkGroup
1980Richard HambletonLa Mamelle, Inc San Francisco, CASolo
1980Times Square ShowNew YorkGroup
1979Richard HambletonPumps Center for Art, Vancouver, CanadaSolo
1979Wandering World Wig Project for Ray Johnson 1979Monty Cantsin, CanadaGroup
1978I.D.E.A.Western Front, Vancouver, CanadaSolo
1976Richard HambletonPumps Center for Art, Vancouver, CanadaSolo

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