M/A/D | Music/Art/Design
The name of Richard Hambleton was once spoken in the same breath as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. A staple of Manhattan’s artistic scene in the 1980s, the Vancouverite’s signature work were shadows: unpolished, menacing figures popping up all over New York at a time when the city was dangerous and exciting.
Oren Jacoby’s Shadowman covers the street-art pioneer’s heyday and long fall from grace. Just as his contemporaries’ work became commodified, Hambleton disappeared, changed his style and became destitute. A severe drug problem had him selling his work for cheap to pay for his next fix. The fact he managed to outlive Basquiat and Haring is mindboggling.
Not a fan of self-promotion, Hambleton’s testimony is sparse, but his friends and patrons are only too happy to fill in the blanks. There has never been a shortage of benefactors, but his knack for alienating them is uncanny. Only Hambleton’s creative drive supersedes his crumbling health, pesky addiction and mercurial personality: It won’t be denied.
The documentary serves also as a portrait of the New York art scene, a toxic milieu where hype and quality are equivalent. For all his inadequacies, Hambleton never yielded to the market. The Shadowman’s natural environment is not the art gallery, but the back alley.
"Jacoby delivers an adroit portrait of the artist at work in a technical package which wraps itself smoothly around this intense, surprising story."—Fionnuala Halligan, Screen