In the 1980s, Richard Hambleton was the Shadowman, a specter in the night who painted hundreds of startling silhouettes on the walls of lower Manhattan and, along with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, sparked the street art movement. After drug addiction and homelessness sent him spinning out of the art scene for 20 years, the Shadowman gets a second chance… but will he take it?
Shadowman plunges the viewer into the chaotic life of a forgotten artist, from early fame as a painter and denizen of the Lower East Side, through his struggles with heroin, to his surprising comeback as street art exploded to become one of the most popular and lucrative art movements in the world. Before Banksy, there was Hambleton.
Shadowman is a trip down a rabbit hole into the mystifying, agonizing, exhilarating, and sometimes frightening world of a brilliant artist in the thrall of creation and addiction. It features rare footage of the 1980s music and art scene, bringing to the screen an indelible portrait of New York City from a lost, transformative time. Its three most admired and groundbreaking artists were friends and rivals: Jean-Michel Basquiat, dead at 27; Keith Haring, dead at 31; and Hambleton, remarkably still alive and working in 2017 after years of self-inflicted abuse. For three decades he has defined himself by living outside the system, outside the studio, even outside the law – but always producing more work.
Shadowman shows one of our most influential living painters – an elusive artist on a heroic journey, in what he calls his “final days.”