Richard Hambleton: Life on Paper

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Richard Hambleton: Life on Paper
Artsy Online Exclusive Exhibition
February 28 – March 14, 2019


Woodward Gallery is delighted to share insight into the Conceptual Artist Richard Hambleton.  So much more than the Shadowman, shadowy black figures that he is well known for, Hambleton sought the sublime through his art. He worked to elicit a reaction from his painting. Richard said his process was all about love, and as such, he literally added a bit of himself to each of his works of art.


This exhibition considers landscapes, bloodscapes, horse and riders, and portraits on paper born of the artist’s incomparable creativity. From splashing paint for his Shadowman icons, Richard ascended to “splashy seascapes” and landscapes, to painting escapes. The Artist would use surfaces that he could manipulate with texture, brush, tools, acrylic, tinted varnish to be known collectively as his Beautiful Paintings– a departure from the mysterious dark shadow figures.  Richard said the shadowman army that he painted on city streets was to add to the urban picture. The Beautiful Paintings by contrast are a unique visual destination that Richard would initiate.  He took time to complete a colorful abstract painting and manipulate the viewer with his entry point, a horizon line.  From that line one may be fooled to recognize a landscape, when in truth, these are pure gestural abstractions. The Beautiful Paintings were actually quite physical actions as the Artist would move paint around by lifting and manipulating the medium. He denotes his special works, “_ _ _ _”, as his message of L-O-V-E.  For the larger scale Beautiful Paintings on canvas, metal, mirrors or wood, Richard typically titled them with female names to identify individual women he had known or cared for.


It is no secret that Richard Hambleton loved women. He kept company with many female friends, fans and muses over time.  He learned that his splashy black figures would also pulsate as hearts. When he rarely produced a heart icon, it would serve a special occasion, friend, or gift. These would have his signature splatter and drips and sometimes even the special annotation.


Determined to paint with whatever medium he could get his hands on, Richard collected the blood from his syringes.  He would mix blood with distilled water to create landscapes, seascapes and flower pieces typically on paper- his personal watercolor technique. They are dramatically bright red when wet, but cure as they dry to golden brown, sepia tones that he particularly liked. These Blood Paintings range from minimal, a few strokes for a flower, to the complexity of a grand vista depending on his mood. Hambleton used his own blood, the life force of his body, giving permanence to his art.


The Horse and Rider series evolved from his cynical view of the Marlboro ads of the day, which depicted scenes of the American cowboy in a pasture riding his horse and enjoying cigarettes. Richard identifies the dichotomy of the virile cowboy and the bodily harm caused by cigarette tar and smoke.  His Horse and Rider devoid of the Marlboro/ Merit cigarette subject started in the mid 1980s. Hambleton appropriated the visual energy from the earlier ads reconstructing the romance of the Horse and Rider as a silhouetted cowboy riding on a bucking bronco. The works on paper are smaller studies of the typical life-size paintings. Richard physically memorized the lines of a Remington horse sculpture he had and from it, rendered ink drawings to capture the energy, and movement.  He developed acrylic on paper and paintings of these rodeo figures from these studies. Although Richard revisited this inspiration throughout his life and made large scale Horse and Riders on canvas, he often said he would retire the concept as it grew in popularity with his own notoriety.


Shadow Head Portraits are a body of work that Richard was able to create, despite his unstable living environment. Richard became adept at quickly painting most on paper, impressively giving full character to his shadowy black silhouette busts.  Shadow Head Portraits became the staple of his oeuvre.  Due to the scale of the work they were portable. Hambleton could produce a complete portrait that he easily transported from place to place as his lifestyle necessitated.

Woodward Gallery is making this curated selection of works on paper from their Richard Hambleton collection available for the ARTSY Online Exclusive Exhibition only.

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