New York

Mark Lombardi, World Finance Corporation and Associates, ca. 1970–84: Miami–Ajman–Bogota–Caracas (7th Version), 1999, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 69 1/8 x 84".

Mark Lombardi, World Finance Corporation and Associates, ca. 1970–84: Miami–Ajman–Bogota–Caracas (7th Version), 1999, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 69 1/8 x 84".

Mark Lombardi

Pierogi

Mark Lombardi, World Finance Corporation and Associates, ca. 1970–84: Miami–Ajman–Bogota–Caracas (7th Version), 1999, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 69 1/8 x 84".

While living in Houston during the late 1980s, Mark Lombardi wrote two seemingly unrelated book manuscripts: one on panoramic painting and the other on the decade’s domestic and international drug wars. He then began to collect information on a subject that would transform him from part-time painter into one of the most prominent emerging artists at the turn of the millennium: the savings and loan crisis and its connections to President George H .W. Bush, Texas politics, and various US allies around the world. Starting with small, rough sketches he made on scraps of paper and napkins in an effort to better organize the details of his research, Lombardi made such works as the meticulous and sprawling Bank of Credit and Commerce International, International Credit and Investment Corporation and First American Bank Shares, ca. 1972–91 aka BCCI–ICIC–FAB (4th Version), 1996, first shown at the inaugural installment of “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1 in 2000. The savings and loan crisis was one of the many subjects he would address.

As with all of Lombardi’s large-scale drawings, which he collectively called “narrative structures” and produced between 1994 and 2000, BCCI–ICIC–FAB consists of an elaborate network of lines and circles connecting institutions, individuals, dates, and legal details—in this case, related to the massive money-laundering schemes of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the International Credit and Investment Corporation, and First American Bank. Organized along three long horizontal axes that both anchor the piece visually and unfold its information chronologically, a reticular proliferation of straight, curling, and arcing solid and dotted lines links the many players. And yet, before one gets close enough to view the names and dates carefully handwritten in graphite, one is confronted by the most striking aspect of BCCI–ICIC–FAB: its formal intricacy and aesthetically virtuosic mapping of information. “Mark Lombardi: Index” at Pierogi contained the penultimate version of the work. Stained with a sweep of brown water splotches, it was damaged by a faulty sprinkler system in Lombardi’s studio a week before “Greater New York” opened, forcing him to go seven days and nights without sleep re-creating and expanding it. A month later, he committed suicide.

The Pierogi show sought to shed light on Lombardi’s research methods and artistic process by including shelves of books and magazines from his personal library, small preparatory sketches, and a video of the artist explaining his breakthrough work. A display case contained notebooks, file folders, a small sampling of the more than ten thousand index cards Lombardi made to catalogue his research (the rest are in the Museum of Modern Art’s archives), and photocopied news articles. Among the latter, a newspaper story detailing George W. Bush’s own shady financial dealings was strategically located beneath George W. Bush, Harken Energy, and Jackson Stephens, ca. 1979–90 (5th Version), 1999. Somewhat smaller in size at forty-one by sixteen inches, the work was one of five “completed” narrative structures included in the show.

Yet Lombardi’s research was never finished. He labeled each work a version, aware that new pertinent facts might come to light and the piece would need to be recrafted. Preparatory sketches and earlier iterations of larger drawings, on view at Pierogi, showed just how much Lombardi both developed and visually refined each piece. The gallery also displayed three works that indicated his art’s final phase. In World Finance Corporation and Associates, ca. 1970–84: Miami–Ajman–Bogota–Caracas (7th Version), 1999, Lombardi moved away from a linear presentation of information to a more spherical, allover approach. Just as panoramic in scope, although not in horizontal execution, these big, bulbous drawings dispense with a clear chronology in order to better manifest the incessantly swirling flow of capital and information. Abandoning a timeline approach, Lombardi’s final works utilize an encircling connectivity to illustrate an economic system with seemingly total reach. As a result, these drawings visually approximate the globe, or perhaps even a galaxy.

Alan Gilbert