Unlike his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hambleton was not interested in the cult of celebrity, even going so far as to deny Andy Warhol’s invitation to sit for a portrait on more than one occasion. As a result, Hambleton remained largely out of the spotlight until the premiere of the award-winning documentary Shadowman directed by Oren Jacoby which premiered on December 2017, two months after the death of the artist. The title for the film originates from Hambleton’s affectionate sobriquet of the same name which itself comes from his 1960s series of over 600 paintings featuring dark and looming silhouetted figures for which he became known. Combined with a series of faux-crime scenes executed in his signature graffiti-like style, these unsettling shadows haunted the streets of New York, disturbing the emotional stability of each passer-by.
Hambleton moved beyond New York in the 1980s when his works were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1984 and 1988. The artist subsequently painted ‘Shadowmen’ across the streets of Venice, later moving on to Rome, Paris, and London and even going so far as to paint two life-sized ‘Shadowmen’ on either side of the Berlin wall. Hambleton’s splattered works have been permanently imprinted on our collective consciousness, becoming an instantly recognisable symbol that encapsulates a turbulent moment in history.
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