Posted on April 26, 2018

In 1982, Franc Palaia was the first artist/photographer to compile the Hambleton shadow wall paintings into book form. His initial 1982 volume (an original edition of 200 signed and numbered handmade books) was sold independently. They are now included in many public and private collections. Over the span of several years, Palaia photographed over 120 of Richard’s shadow paintings, of which 76 are included in this second volume.  

Palaia first met Canadian renegade artist, Richard Hambleton, in early 1981, a short while after a series of enigmatic posters started appearing in conspicuous locations in the Soho and Tribeca neighborhoods of New York City. As time went by, Palaia had compiled a substantial number of photographs of Hambleton’s shadow paintings and after several months, he noticed a whole new crop of street art had sprouted along side Richard’s silhouettes. Palaia was no longer annoyed by the visual intrusions of others and began photographing all the ancillary scribbles, writings, posters and cartoons attached to the black figures.  

 While the New York Press was catching up to Hambleton in New York, Richard was already roaming around Europe doing the same thing. There are black painted figures in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Florence, Rome, Milano and other cities. Palaia managed to find and photograph a few in Europe several years after they were painted.

 Nightlife raises many questions. Were the figures self-portraits of the artist or do they represent everyman? They are permanent and ephemeral at the same time. The haunting effigies broke down barriers between aspects of art that were acknowledged years later. They were an illicit act in the appropriation of public space. Were they high art or low art? In the civic sphere, the authorities would see the paintings as vandalism, pure and simple. Without a doubt, the shadow paintings left an indelible mark on my brain and the public at large. Once you see them, you never forget them.  

“I hope NightLife serves as a comprehensive historic documentation of this memorable body of work by Richard Hambleton.” 

- Franc Palaia about The Nightlife series.-