Jean-Michel Basquiat is considered the first commercially successful graffiti artist, and his transition from tagger to art gallery darling led the way for people like Banksy to make a bundle with their street art.
But before the name Basquiat became synonymous with NYC street art there was another artist with a dark disposition who left his mark on the city- the Shadowman.
Vancouver-born street artist Richard Hambleton is a classically trained painter who made his way across the USA in the 70s, and when he arrived in NYC in 1978 he quickly became part of the thriving street art scene:
A classically trained painter, Hambleton was known throughout the 80s for works that played on Lower Manhattan's seedy and dangerous reputation, as well as its DIY energy. First came his chalk outlines (which also appeared in other cities), then came mysterious "shadow paintings" depicting a Shadowman lurking in the city's darker corridors.
As Shadowman details, the Vancouver-born artist, working on a grant from the city, took his "murder mystery" chalk outline paintings on an American West Coast tour of Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He then worked his way across the United States, arriving in New York City in 1978, right as the Lower East Side's music and arts scenes were heating up. His murder mysterious, staged in TriBeCa and elsewhere, with its blood red paint splashed across white outlines, immediately unnerved everyone, including the NYPD. This brought Hambleton much media attention, and made him something of an art world star.