Mark Lombardi’s Narrative Structures and Other Mappings of Power Relations

(…) the great question today is the question of globalization, the question of the unity of the world. Globalization proposes to us an abstract universality. A universality of money, the universality of communication and the universality of power. That is the universalism today. And so, against the abstract universality of money and of power, what is the question of art, what is the function of artistic creation?
Excerpt from Alain Badiou’s “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art

Mark Lombardi was considered an American Neo-Conceptualist and an abstract artist.
His major legacy was linked to his large-scale linear diagrams attempting to trace the structures of financial and political power, corruption and affairs among capitalists, politicians, corporations, and governments (or, said à la Marx: that Band of hostile brothers).

All images and Mark Lombardi’s texts Courtesy of Donald Lombardi and Pierogi Gallery.

His self-titled “Narrative Structures” are structurally similar to sociograms (diagrams used in the field of social network analysis) and each node or connection of the diagrams is drawn from news stories from reputable media organizations. Lombardi was also influenced by the work of Hans Haacke, Herbert Marcuse and information graphic designer Edward Tufte.

A nodal point in Mark Lombardi’s oeuvre was the 1999 “George W. Bush, Harken Energy and Jackson Stephens, ca 1979–90″ (also shown in dOCUMENTA 13), which described the alleged connections between James Bath, the Bush and bin Laden families, and business deals in Texas and around the world.

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A strong influence by Mark Lombardi’s work can be seen in Futurefarmers Josh On’s 2004 “They Rule, that also drew a lot from “The Power Elite“, a book written in 1956 by the sociologist C.Wright Mills.

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“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.
– Mark Lombardi (Artist Statement)”

Read more:
Ben Fry’s article on Mark Lombardi
About “George W. Bush, Harken Energy and Jackson Stephens c. 1979-90″: “Obsessive—Generous” – Toward a Diagram of Mark Lombardi by Frances Richard
Alain Badiou’s “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art
Politics. ich-ichs-wir“, an exhibition featuring Lombardi at Columbus Art Foundation
Nineteeneightyfour“, an exhibition at the Austrian Cultural forum, NYC.
Utterance Is Place Enough: Mapping Conversation“, by Frances Richard (on Cabinet Issue 2 – Mapping Conversations Spring 2001)
Social Networks Sept 13, 2004, by Francis Lam



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