Mark Lombardi: Artistic Narrative Structures

Recently I found out that a former professor of mine, Dr. Susan Ruddick, during my undergraduate degree has translated Pierre Macherey’s “Hegel ou Spinoza” and was thus thinking about the class that I took with her which attempted to bring together contemporary theory (Mackenzie Wark, Deleuze and Guattarai etc), especially network actor theory, together with cartography by which to subvert political and economic space (it was a class in the geography department). During the class I had the good fortune of being introduced to the work of Mark Lombardi, a conceptual artist, who used drawings and cartography as a way of telling stories about the relationships between power and money. For some reason I have forgotten his name and have then spent considerable time and effort to remember it several times in the past and just spent an hour doing it tonight. Thus, this time I have decided to create a record of him and his work, and thought I would share his work with all of you.

George W. Bush, Harken Energy, and Jackson Stephens. 1979-90

What I find most compelling about Lombardi’s aesthetic is his capacity to use minimalistic clear simple lines, colours, shapes and notes to tell the audience about the complicated political and economic histories and relationships that we in the Left struggle to do in hundreds of dense prose. His small precise handwriting forces the spectator to peer closely at the diagram and cannot but help be enveloped into the narrative structure that lies behind the simple diagrams, and see the circuits of capital in operation.  As Lombardi himself said,

In 1994 I began a series of drawings I refer to as “narrative structures.” Most were executed in graphite or pen and ink on paper. Some are quite large, measuring up to 5 x 12 feet.

I call them “narrative structures” because each consists of a network of lines and notations which are meant to convey a story, typically about a recent event of interest to me, like the collapse of a large international bank, trading company, or investment house. One of my goals is to explore the interaction of political, social and economic forces in contemporary affairs. Thus far I have exhibited drawings on BCCI, Lincoln Savings, World Finance of Miami, the Vatican Bank, Silverado Savings, Castle Bank and Trust of the Bahamas, Nugan Hand Limited of Sydney, Australia, and many more.

Working from syndicated news items and other published accounts, I begin each drawing by compiling large amounts of information about a specific bank, financial group or set of individuals. After a careful review of the literature I then condense the essential points into an assortment of notations and other brief statements of fact, out of which an image begins to emerge.

My purpose throughout is to interpret the material by juxtaposing and assembling the notations into a unified, coherent whole. In some cases I use a set of stacked, parallel lines to establish a time frame. Hierarchical relationships, the flow of money and other key details are then indicated by a system of radiating arrows, broken lines and so forth. Some of the drawings consist of two different layers of information—one denoted in black, the other, red. Black represents the essential elements of the story while the major lawsuits, criminal indictments or other legal actions taken against the parties are shown in red. Every statement of fact and connection depicted in the work is true and based on information culled entirely from the public record.

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