Photo by John Berens
Detail from first rough draft of Mark Lombardi's BNL, Reagan, Bush, & Thatcher and the Arming of Iraq, ca. 1983-91 (1995) View Full Image
A few weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an FBI agent called the Whitney Museum of American Art and asked to see a drawing on exhibit there. The piece was by Mark Lombardi, an artist who had committed suicide the year before. Using just a pencil and a huge sheet of paper, Lombardi had created an intricate pattern of curves and arcs to illustrate the links between global finance and international terrorism.
In other drawings, Lombardi explored subjects ranging from the collapse of the Vatican bank to the Iran-Contra scandal. The results are not only detailed slices of history, but also works of art — some looking like constellations of stars on a dark night, others swirling clouds of abstract lines and points.
A traveling show of Lombardi's work opens this weekend at the Drawing Center in New York City. NPR's Lynn Neary spoke to exhibit curator Robert Hobbs, professor of art history at Virginia Commonwealth University, who discusses why Lombardi's work should be considered art, and not just good research.