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Richard Hambleton (1952–2017)

Street artist Richard Hambleton, who creatively came of age in the downtown New York art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, has died, according to Daniel Maurer of Bedford and Bowery. He passed away on October 29, 2017.

Hambleton was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. The artist became well-known for a series of body outlines in chalk—the kind one sees traced on the ground in fictional crime scene investigations for television shows—spattered with fake blood. The figures, part of a larger project called Image Mass Murder, 1976–78, appeared in more than thirteen cities in and outside of the US, including New York, Montreal, and San Francisco. His series of “Shadowman” figures—life-sized, expressionistic silhouettes of mystery people painted in black—brought him even more notoriety, and eventually became hallmarks of the artist’s oeuvre. In fact, a documentary about the artist’s life and work, Shadowman (2017), directed by Oren Jacoby, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last April. A selection of his work can also be seen at the Museum of Modern Art’s “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983,” which opened on October 31 and runs until April 1, 2018.

“In the early eighties Richard’s work was part of all our identities,” said artist and writer Marguerite Van Cook in a Facebook post after Hambleton’s death. “As we went about our endless business, his lurking shadow-men reminded us that we were part of a community, part of something exciting and dangerous. They spoke to the nocturnal realm we inhabited. The figures designated our spaces, they marked our terrain, and they reminded us of our common goals—to take risks for our art.”