The Man Who Died Drawing the World

He captured the power structures of our world in his art – A portray of today’s political – economic reality. In 2000 Mark Lombardi was found dead in his gallery. 

Mark Lombardi’s drawings create visual narratives which illustrate the money flows in our today’s world – from corporation to political organization, from banks to individuals or families. These visual narratives are part of Lombardi’s series “narrative structures,” on which he worked from 1994 on.  Most drawings of the series show diagrams of black and sometimes red lines, which link the intersection points of money transactions. Together they create an organic web that manages to connect the complex structures of money flows that determine the course of our global society.

The artist drew his information from public accessible resources. In the research process he ordered the information in an index card system, from which, as described by Lombardi, throughout the process an image emerged. Lombardi himself stated that, “One of my goals is to explore the interaction of political, social and economic forces in contemporary affairs.”

One of his art works was exhibited this year at one of the world’s most important contemporary art exhibitions, documenta 13. The piece is titled “BCCI–ICIC & FAB” and contains names as George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden.  It is this drawing, which is his most fateful one. In 2000 before it was meant to be exhibited an important exhibition at the New Yorker Museum PS1 it was destroyed by an inexplicable switching on of the sprinkling system in the artist’s atelier. It took the artist one week of day and night working to restore the picture.

 A few days after the exhibition opening Mark Lombardi was found hung in his atelier. The police and medical examiner came to the conclusion that Lombardi committed suicide. However, many persons of the artist’s social environment claim that a suicide is impossible. According to some people the artist suffered from a persecution complex, other sources state that he was under surveillance of the FBI and received several malicious calls.

Notwithstanding the true cause of Lombardi’s death, his work is of utmost political and artistic relevance. A few months after the 9/11 terror attacks the FBI developed a renewed  interest in the artists work, as a source to understand the complex political and economic entanglements. Art as a source tool for current criminal investigation is a novelty in art history.

Further, the artist contributes a new medium to our understanding of the endless seeming information flows. Information has never been as fast and easily accessible as today and this makes it easy to loose track of the interconnectedness of events. Lombardi’s pictures manage to capture this, the “big picture”.  Julian Assange has stated recently, no political theory can be sufficient if there is not enough knowledge how the world actual functions. As macabre as it is, the mysterious death of the Lombardi underlines message of the artist’s work itself – a decreasing trust in the structures in which we live and the importance of knowledge.

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