Mark Lombardi Global Neworks , book cover
The upheaval in the US financial markets over the past couple months, its effect on the international markets, and the baroque interconnectedness of it all has had me thinking about what Mark Lombardi would have thought of all this. I’ve long been a fan of Lombardi’s extensively researched and delicately drawn maps of connections and was thrilled to find a copy of Global Networks at Green Apple a couple weeks ago. Sadly, Lombari’s brief career as an artist ended with his death in 2000. If you are not familiar with his work, Lombardi drew maps of the relationships between the players in various networks of power be they criminal, financial or political. He drew maps of Iran-Contra, the Savings and Loan meltdown, the Chicago mob, and the Pope and his bankers. He mapped out the connections around Osama bin Laden and his brother-in-law Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker, so thoroughly in the work BCCI-ICIC & FAB that in the aftermath of 9/11 the FBI contacted the Whitney and requested a copy of it.
Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of Lombardi’s work is that it doesn’t reproduce very well in books or on the web. You end up with either a view of the entirety where you can’t make out any detail or a detail that lacks context. Even seeing them in person requires the viewer to have a huge amount of information to understand the full implications of the connections. Is it this lack of easy readability that makes the work art and not information design? I don’t want to get into a big discussion of what is art here, but Lombardi’s work has certainly raised some questions for me. Do they become art because they are aesthetically pleasing? Is it because they show the hand of the artist, i.e. would they be the same if they had been done on a computer? Is it art because the creator says it is and some gallery owner agreed with him? Or is it the combination of all these things? Whether it is art or not (I think it is), I would have loved to see Lombardi’s take on the current crisis.