Richard Hambleton: One of the original street artists

One thing that I’ve been getting interested in lately is street are in the 1960’s-mid-1980’s. Basically, street art before Shepard Fairey. That’s why I recently visited John Fekner and Don Leicht’s studio. Perhaps the best place to learn about street art in that timespan is the book Street Art by Allan Schwartzman (and Tristan Manco has another suggestion but it’s not as easy to purchase). You’ll probably recognize some of the artists on the cover of Street Art (Futura, Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring), but the largest image on that book’s cover is of an artwork by a largely overlooked street artist: Richard Hambleton.

Hambleton started making street art in the late 1970’s when he made chalk outlines of people’s bodies in public places, as if a murder had occurred there. The physical artwork was really just the start of these pieces though. Often, these would get picked up by the local media, as residents in suburban and generally wealthy communities mildly panicked about the “crime scene.” Besides being fun, these early pieces of street art help to draw a very clear connection between the situationist movement and street art, something that I like to look for.

But it’s another series that Hambleton is probably best known for: The Shadowmen. These are what is on the cover of Street Art. Hambleton splashed black paint onto the streets in figurative shapes that looked like the shadows of people. It’s these paintings that you’ll primarily find at his current retrospective in Moscow. I briefly mentioned Arrested Motion’s preview of the show a few weeks ago, but now some photos of the work hanging in the museum have come out. Oh, did I mention that the retrospective is at a museum? Looks like USA hasn’t quite caught up with the Russians on this one, as Hambleton’s retrospective is taking place at The State Museum of Modern Art of the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow.

There are some pretty nice pieces in this show, and for a fan of the years of street art like me, it’s fantastic to see Hambleton finally getting due recognition in a museum (as well as a recent Juxtapoz Magazine interview).

Unfortunately, Richard Hambleton – New York closes on September 29th, but hopefully show will help to relaunch Hambleton and we’ll be able to see these works in the UK or USA soon. Hambleton is among street art’s original innovators and it’s a shame that his contributions haven’t been more properly acknowledged until recently.

One of the interesting things about Hambleton is that even though he was one of the first street artists, his gallery work wouldn’t immediately be pegged as “street art” (unlike, for example, Blek le Rat, Crash and Futura). The above painting his part of his Marlboro Man series, and it just looks like a strong painting; Hambleton’s street art background doesn’t entirely define him.

Hambleton’s retrospective was put together by Valmorbida and Feedback.

Photos courtesy of Valmorbida