Curated by Robert Murphy
Exhibition Dates: October 9th - November 9th, 2014
Opening Reception October 9th, 6-9pm
Richard Hambleton, By Clayton Patterson
Richard Hambleton is an enigma, hard to pin down. His work is seen, but,
often he is not. An early 1980's portrait of Richard is included in a book
of artists' portraits by Timothy Greenfield Sanders. He has the movie star
good looks of James Dean.
In the early 1980's when walking the streets, or riding the subway, an
individual had to have their antennae up because there was always the
chance that some kind of danger could be lurking just seconds away.
Artists like Keith Haring helped relieve the feeling of fear of the unknown
by placing fun, playful, graphic images in public spaces. Richard added
to the tension with his street performance piece: Image Mass Murder.
Richard would have a person lay on the ground, in a fallen position,
then paint a white chalk outline around the figure, splash a little red paint
around, leaving the impression of a police crime scene. Of course, many
viewers believed they were walking by a place someone had recently been
In his next, and most memorable series of street works, Richard created
the Shadow paintings, which were especially effective at night. This iconic
series terrorized and caused fear in the hearts of many unsuspecting
passers-by. Quickly painted, these ominous, life-sized, black figures,
were placed in strategic spots on dimly lit streets. The darkness helped
give the impression of a real person hiding in the shadow. The tense,
alert, nighttime walker would pick up the shadow figure in the corner of
their eye. Glancing sideways they would see this shadow figure. If only
for a moment these shadow images startled the wary person.
Another of Richards menacing Street Art pieces were his life-sized photos
of himself, stiff in posture, dressed in a rumpled suit, vest, white shirt, black
tie, in a Napoleonic stance with right hand in jacket, left hand tight in his
suit jacket pocket, schizoid looking staring eyes. These paper printed
images were wheat pasted on Downtown building walls.
Richard was associated with the early 80's East Village art scene. He
is one of the artists in the group portrait, The Irascibles, by Timothy
Greenfield Sanders. Hambleton's work was exhibited in a number of
pivotal underground galleries such as ABC No Rio, Club 57, Public Image
Gallery, Squat Theater, and Fashion Moda. His work was included in two
seminal exhibitions; 1980's Times Square Show. The influential arts group
Colab was thus born and led to ABC No Rio's 1980 exhibition, Real Estate
Richard is one of the few artists who broke away from the East Village art
scene and began showing in the then trend setting, fashionable, SoHo
galleries, starting with an exhibition of his Shadow work in the Alexander
Milliken Gallery. The great debate that surround this show was whether
the Shadow paintings stood up as art painted on canvas and shown in a
gallery, or not. The critics who believe the work died when it left the street
were proven wrong.
Soon, Hambleton was exhibiting internationally: Berlin, Antwerp, Rome,
Milan, Vancouver, Venice, and so on. In the early 80's many expected
Richard to be the stand out artist of the period.
Although Richard's body has been ravaged by ailments and addiction,
he has persevered and continued to create. Fighting the insurmountable
odds of life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, arrests and trashed
works, Richard has continued to make inspired art. Life's struggles
destroyed Van Gough's spirit. Not Richard's.
When I look at Richard's beautiful paintings I think of Albert Pinkham
Ryder's visionary seascape and mysterious paintings. Dark storm
warnings, more sky with a low horizon, or the serenity and beauty of an
illuminated cloud filled sky. Ryder's use of non-traditional materials: heavy
varnish, a tar like substance, wax, grease. Richard uses blood, heavy
varnishes, urethane, house paint, gold and silver leaf, tin foil. It seems that
both artists used whatever material was available at the time of creative
need, unorthodox or whatever.
Another artist, I relate to Richard, is the English Romantic artist William
Turner. For example the light and colors in paintings like The Morning
After The Deluge. It is also speculated that Turner, in order to fully
comprehend the power of the storm, desired to live in the eye of the storm.
During one storm he tied himself to the mast of a ship. Must live it to paint
it. Richard has lived through the storms that life threw in his path. I have
witnessed Richard painting with black house paint and house painter
brush, on a piece of found Styrofoam, on the street during a snow storm.
For me, one difference between Ryder, Turner, and Richard is that the
first two artists' heroic struggle is between man and nature. Richard's
struggle is with himself and his own nature. Some speculate that Richard's
landscapes are inspired by images which are formed within the liquid in a
syringe. Once the syringe hits a vein, rather than just push the drug into
the vein, he pulls back on the syringe and draws the blood out of his vein.
As the blood mixes with the heroin and water, the blood slowly rolls and
forms cloud-like landscapes and shapes.
In the end it is not the life or lifestyle artists have lived, it is the art that
counts. In the end, I believe Richard's art will pass the test of time and he
will have left a mark that people in the future will appreciate.