Long before Banksy, another artist was causing a commotion on the streets.
In the 1980s, Vancouver-born Richard Hambleton’s sinister shadow figures and mock crime scenes had New York City baffled and buzzing.
Vancouver School of Art–trained, he had an ability to capture, with splashing slaps of black and red paint, all the threat and social angst on the Manhattan streets of the time.
The snappily dressed young artist was soon catapulted, along with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, onto the hyped-up world art stage, but it all fell apart, thanks to a wicked and ongoing heroin addiction—a huge part of the East Village scene.
It’s an unbelievable dive: at several points, he’s living in a storage room and hawking his most prized paintings for drug money.
Director Oren Jacoby has a real feel for the era, setting it all to a soundtrack of Talking Heads and Blondie. He finds an amazing wealth of footage of Hambleton through those years—it’s not pretty—and follows him right up to today, to his preparations for his first exhibit in eons.
As ravaged by scoliosis and skin cancer as he is now, the hard-headed, shy Hambleton—a shadowman himself—still possesses breathtaking gestural painting skills.More