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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Shadowman Has Arrived Once More

On a recent Friday, he committed his first crime just after 2:00 a.m., just after the clock struck 2:00. He jumped over a rusted fence and reached into his bag for a plastic container of black latex paint, which he took out with the elegance of an athlete. Later, using wide muscular strokes, he painted the silhouette of a scraggly guy on the glass door of an abandoned café on West 23rd Street, just below the street level.. It took 10 minutes to complete, and he completed it by splattering drops over the surface of the frightening figure’s head, giving the appearance that the brains of the figure were bursting as if from a geyser.

This tagalong reporter, who pointed out the police vehicle on the corner, was informed, “I simply believe the door looks better that way.” “And now the area has undergone a full transformation.”

A guy passing by was taken aback by how the gloomy shadow altered the atmosphere of the scene. It seemed to him that it was a significant improvement over the previous appearance.

For fear of being apprehended, the stealth artist, a 47-year-old Seattle resident and former mountain bike racer and industrial designer, goes by the street moniker Nullbureau and refuses to reveal his actual identity out of fear of being arrested. Anyone who is familiar with the history of street art in New York City, on the other hand, would immediately identify the figure he had recreated. A reasonably realistic replica of one of the Shadowman figurines painted by Richard Hambleton, it was used for this project.

Hambleton (1952-2017) is often regarded as the “godfather of street art,” having influenced artists such as Banksy, the well-known underground artist, and others. Before he began painting shadow figures on the streets of the Lower East Side in the early 1980s, he began painting outlines of slain people on the sidewalks of the Lower East Side. He became so well-known for his early controversial art, some of which was intended for the streets and others which was intended for sale, that he was featured in Life magazine.

However, decades later, many of those who knew him still feel protective of him, and subsequent replications have triggered a flood of emotions that include pleasant recollections, mistrust, and even anger.

A picture of Hambleton taken in 1983 by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a filmmaker and photographer who documented the artist’s life and work, says there are a lot of fakes and a lot of resentment over Hambleton’s legacy and estate. To make things worse, a California man recently admitted to selling counterfeit Hambletons after pleading guilty in court.

The original street murals were considered scary by many. As far as Hambleton was concerned, they were capable of picking up on the psychology of the city when it was a far more dangerous place than it is today. He desired for passersby to be taken by surprise, or even better, horrified. During the filming of Oren Jacoby’s 2017 documentary, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival the same year the artist passed away from cancer, he says, “I’m simply adding to the image.”

However, while his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat died early, with careers soaring or about to soar, Hambleton’s turbulent existence extended out until his death at the age of 65, he had a far less defined path. According to several of those who worked with him, he was torn about selling his finest works, and he had been homeless at various points in his life. That, along with a heroin addiction (which never prevented him from painting), resulted in his becoming his own dark character.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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