Hambleton began his Marlboro Men series in 1983-84, of which the present work is an early example. A smoker himself, Hambleton was counted as part of a pioneering generation of street artists, along with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who resided in lower Manhattan and appropriated popular culture and urban references into their artistic practices. Untitled (Marlboro Man) synthesizes Hambleton’s earlier Shadowmen with the highly recognizable cultural figure, capturing its eponymous subject in a display of gallant strength and skill. The figure rides a bucking horse, swinging a lasso overhead, coalescing in a classic image of Western machismo and the tobacco industry. Despite this easily recognizable silhouette, Hambleton’s trademark paint application complicates a straightforward reading of the work. Delineated with lashings of white paint, the figure is an ethereal presence, the borders of its form threatening to buckle beneath a darkness encroaching on all sides. Through a combination of his subject matter and paint application, Hambleton interrogates the cultural significate of the Marlboro Man, filtering it through his unique stylistic lens to draw attention to the symbol’s use in society, and what it acts to conceal.
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