What If It's All True?

The quote is from a Steve Earle song called "Conspiracy Theory." It was also the headline of a New York Times article about the work of the late artist Mark Lombardi, which is featured in an exhibit, "Global Networks," that's touring the country throughout 2004.

For the last several years of his life (he committed suicide in 2000), Lombardi made pencil drawings that, literally, traced the connections between and among the various players in major global criminal conspiracies of the 1980s and '90s: Iran-Contra, U.S. Savings and Loan, the BCCI Affair, George W. Bush's Harken Energy scandal, and others. The Times headline was referring to connections such as the ones Lombardi drew linking both Presidents Bush with sundry drug lords and terrorists. In the drawings, the players float in labeled pods, connected by black dotted lines showing the flow of money, solid lines showing the path of influence, and occasional splashes of red to indicate the death or detention of a conspirator.

This may sound like a computer program rigged up by those conspiracy nuts on The X-Files, but Lombardi's drawings are all handmade, with the information taken from the artist's collection of 14,000 handwritten index cards. And the drawings stand up as aesthetic objects. They are the opposite of those Impressionist paintings that, up close, seem to be a mass of colored dots, and reveal their pattern when viewed from a distance. In the long view, Lombardi's drawings are abstract, but carefully plotted and symmetrical, designs drawn lightly in delicate strokes. As you get closer the details emerge - the names and dates and connections. Somewhere in the middle distance, one can apprehend the relationship of data to pattern.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2004
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