The New York-born, Brooklyn-based artist Mark Lombardi died in 2000 at age 48 of an apparent suicide, leaving as many nagging questions as his exhaustively researched infographic drawings sought to answer. Eighteen months after his death, the Whitney Museum received a call from a purported FBI agent, who wanted to examine a Lombardi drawing in the institution’s collections: One charting the connections between president George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. These and other strange developments are the focus of a new documentary by German director Mareike Wegener, “Mark Lombardi: Death-defying Acts of Art and Conspiracy.”
For the film Wegener — whose previous film, “The Matchstick Traveler,” concerned another deceased New York artist, Al Hansen — spoke to artists who knew Lombardi including Rafael Vargas-Suarez, James Siena, and Fred Tomaselli; Joe Amrhein and Susan Swenson, the owners of Pierogi gallery, which represented the artist during his life and now represents his estate; and his family.
“They were concerned with the possibility of my scandalizing things,” Wegener told ArtNews of visiting Lombardi’s parents in Syracuse. “But if you look at Lombardi’s work, he’s really de-scandalizing things. He’s putting things together in a very subtle way, and that’s something I’m doing in the film, too.”
The documentary, which opens in Germany on May 31, will have its U.S. premiere one week later at the Brooklyn Film Festival, where it plays on June 7 and June 9 Watch the trailer below.
— Benjamin Sutton