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Monday, April 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/17 - Shadow Man

I did my club-hopping in the early '80's, mostly at Hurrah's in midtown Manhattan or The Ritz in the East Village. I would often see figures painted in black on the plywood of scaffolds or that which covered windows of buildings undergoing renovation. Sometimes I'd be caught by surprise and take a step back, a shiver running down my spine. I assumed it was a Black Power message. Anyone I asked had no clue about it. Decades later, I've finally come across an answer. Here are highlights from an article in yesterday's NY Post by Raquel Laneri, edited heavily, sentences juxtaposed by yours truly. It was the work of a Canadian —  Richard Hambleton. At downtown galleries his mysterious figures fetched thousands of dollars, at first more than work by his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He attended parties with beautiful women on his arm. Andy Warhol begged him, in vain, to sit for a portrait. Hambleton drew some 450 shadow men in Manhattan — and also managed to get a few on the Berlin Wall. “The city is not a blank canvas,” he said. “It’s a living motion picture that I collaborate with.” Though he painted in the middle of the night, and never signed his name, the work attracted attention. He, Basquiat and Haring became the toast of the art world. By 1982 Hambleton had a successful studio, painting his shadowmen and cowboys on canvas. His work was commanding $15,000. Basquiat’s fetched $10,000. Unfortunately, drug abuse brought him low. Under the influence of ecstasy, Hambleton began producing landscapes. “They looked like [J.M.W.] Turner paintings; they were sublime,” said Kristine Woodward of Woodward Gallery on the Lower East Side. It was career suicide. “The art world did not want landscapes . . . they wanted more shadow men." He dropped out of the scene in the late 1980's. While the work of his friends skyrocketed in worth, the art world lost interest in him. He was so poor he would use the blood in the needles he used to shoot heroin as paint. Incredibly, while Basquiat died of a heroin overdose and Haring of AIDS-related complications, those scourges did not befall Hambleton. His drug-life was not without consequences, however. At one point he lost half his nose. He now has numerous ailments, including skin cancer. 64, he has emerged from the shadows. In 2009 he connected with two art dealers who have ties to the fashion world. They arranged a traveling one-man show sponsored by Armani. His paintings began to reach a new generation. Hip galleries are again showing his work. He’s recognized as the godfather of street art, and his influence can be seen in the works of young painters. A documentary about his life and work, Shadowman, will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hambleton now lives in a studio in the East Village. He says: “I know my life isn’t perfect, but I hope the better parts of me are what inspires and not the worst.” Here's a pic of him from back in the day:

And here's one of him at present:

My thanks to the young man who purchased two CD's as I was closing shop. He broke the goose egg that had been on tap for today's session of the floating book shop. Special thanks to my niece's friend Robbin, who bought Exchanges yesterday. I just enjoyed leftovers - ham, taters, stuffed mushrooms - from our fabulous Easter meal. Thanks, Ron & Sandy.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

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