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Score: 95%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Film Movement
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 82 Mins.
Genre: Biographical/Documentary/Independent
Audio: English 2.0 Stereo, English 5.1
           Surround Sound

Subtitles: English


  • New York City's Downtown Art Scene
  • New York City in the 80's - Music & Art
  • Richard Hambleton
  • Hambleton, Basquiat and Haring
  • Art & Money

Oren Jacoby's poignant documentary Shadowman chronicles the career of street artist Richard Hambleton, who rose to fame during the "art starters" of the 1980's young cultural art scene in the graffiti street art mania of the Lower East Side of New York City. This was a creative and explosive period in the commodity of street art where graffiti artists were implored to produce their artwork not only on streets and walls, but on canvases for galleries and auction houses to propel them to the very heights of the exciting and new international art market. Three famous artists who dominated the outsider NY art scene in the early 1980's were Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Richard Hambleton.

Graffiti artists Basquiat and Haring had gained significant prominence in the sector and world acclaim followed them. They were in the center of the NYC art scene and frequented Club 57, TriBeCa's Mudd Club and could be found partying with Andy Warhol. But amid all the laughter, AIDS crept into this environment and heroin flooded the East Village in the early '80's and overtook Club 57. Basquiat died of a drug overdose in '88, but his paintings broke auction records with sale prices reaching nine figures. Haring died of AIDS in '90, and Warhol died in 1987 from a post-operative cardiac arrhythmia.

Artist Richard Hambleton was considered dark, melancholy, morbid and an innovative genius who painted grotesque and frightening life-size silhouette figures on the walls, streets, and alleyways of the menacing Lower East Side neighborhood, provoking fear in the hearts of their viewers. After gaining prominence in this medium, he brought awareness to his audience through the murderous criminal elements by painting a body chalk line to impress viewers of crimes and make them wonder who was killed there where he left his body mark. His work, though macabre, provoked huge attention and brought him fame and fortune.

Hambleton was an energetic and passionate (perhaps obsessive) artist that spent time furiously painting and re-painting enormous paintings of his silhouettes, his Marlboro man picture, and others. Galleries sought his work and he made an impressive appearance on the art scene. He had steel blue eyes, dressed well, and was considered quite charismatic. However, he was addicted to drugs and soon decided to leave this scene at the height of his career and abscond to Europe to paint glistening silver landscapes. He decided to step out of the scene where people were eagerly trying to get one of his famous silhouettes, so his prominence disappeared and he "became invisible" as one critic said. He traveled with his companion, Mette Madsen, and eventually his drug addiction got the most of him. Although he never stopped painting, his living conditions suffered and so did his health. This is a sad story of an artist who gave his life to his work and never let the money business of the art get to him, but the drugs and homelessness did, and they stole from him the luxury he should have enjoyed in his latter days.

The Bonuses included in Shadowman are informative, giving insight into the wild world of that era. They include New York City's Downtown Art Scene; New York City in the 80's - Music & Art; Richard Hambleton; Hambleton, Basquiat and Haring; and Art & Money. There is commentary from art critics, painters, biographers, and journalists painting a broader picture of the art world of NYC in the 80's showing how the Uptowners of New York came Downtown in limousines and brought the Downtowners back Uptown and into art prominence! The nightlife was untamed, the drugs without control, and this was a scene that would soon self-destruct.

If you are an art lover, Shadowman from Film Movement should find a place among your art documentaries.

-Kambur O. Blythe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jan Daniel

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