I created, in collaboration with Dilbar Ashimbaeva, a unique site-specific artwork titled “Assembly Complex” (2015-16), for the forum wall at the new American University of Central Asia's (AUCA) campus in Bishkek. The artwork is part of the “Topografica” public art initiative as developed produced and directed by Karen Davidov, coordinated by Aida Sulova and advised by Ulan Djaparov. Their direction, guidance and advice helped shape many of Dilbar and I's conceptual, technical and material development, process and execution. My Summary of the project is as follows: On site Education After 8 months of planning, researching and organizing the Topografica project for AUCA, architect Henry Myerberg, Karen Davidov and Aida Sulova all from HMA2 Architects, and I, traveled to Kyrgyzstan to initiate the Topografica artist's retreat, site visit to AUCA, and to begin research on the curatorial work for a Topografica exhibition. Before the actual trip I had been making the effort to educate myself on as many aspects of Central Asian culture, life, art, and of course learning from Henry about the campus. As I had traveled to Central Asia, Siberia and throughout Russia in the past, I still felt like every aspect of what I was learning was very new and very stimulating. The trip was seen as a success in the sense that the retreat created a very open dialogue between the artists, and many ideas were born from there for the Topografica project including the exhibition held at AUCA in the Fall of 2015. Both Summer and Fall felt very exciting and new. New people, new places, new ideas and the new challenge of the creation of a large-scale artwork for the forum wall at AUCA was a bit daunting, but still very exciting. Research, Planning and Collaborating I met Dilbar at AUCA in October of 2015, we expressed a strong mutual admiration for each others work. Dilbar's status and accomplishments as a leading fashion designer in Central Asia have established her as a leading figure representing Central Asian culture at home and abroad. My experience as a muralist in the Americas and Europe have allowed my work to develop improvisational and site specific projects as both permanent and temporary public artworks. It occurred to me that working with a master such as her could result in something very unique. Since 2007 my work has been more and more influenced by textiles, fabrics and weavings, especially from Siberia, Central Asia, North America and South America. I also knew that to work in collaboration and so closely with Dilbar would be a education onto itself. Starting in December of 2015 a constant close and long distance dialogue as well as an exchange of ideas developed into a real collaborative process for Dilbar and I In April of 2016 I traveled to Bishkek for a 3 week stay to begin to produce my work onto silk fabrics as selected and customized by Dilbar and myself. Dilbar Fashion house set up an ample studio for me to work at at their factory in Bishkek. Being surrounded by their workers, their equipment and so much material was a bit overwhelming, but again, very exciting to learn so much from Dilbar about silk, it's properties and the possibilities we had before us to develop the work for AUCA. During those three weeks I made eleven paintings on eleven different types of silk. I used silk dyes to create networks of my signature “vectors” using staining techniques, similarly used by Western abstract artists, as well as guta, an Indian material used in silk painting. I had never really worked with any of these materials before but to experiment and learn them was a big part of the trip. Dilbar and I also discussed other possibilities such as embroidery, either hand sewn or with a computerized machine for faster execution. Returning to New York in early May, we began to see that the amount of possible materials, techniques and methods for Assembly Complex were vast, daunting and technically challenging. From May 7 until July 3 we worked on approximately 35 design development ideas. Having never lost the focus of our concept to fuse ideas about land, culture and connectivity within the Topografica concept already presented at AUCA, we moved forward and operated on reverse time zone schedules conference calls and conversations with translators, both human and otherwise. I arrived in Bishkek again on July 5 to get to the final design for approval. The goal and agenda was to “get it done”. By this point it was more than clear and imperative that the artwork tell or contain a story of a changing landscape, both physical and cultural. The final green light was given after presenting the 45th design development option. Ulan Djaparov said that all the design options could be an entire exhibition onto themselves. As I look at all the design options now, I can clearly see the evolution, and they remind me of so many conversations with the team. Execution After many months, ideas, conversations and miles in the air, we were set to start the production process of “our project”, as we called it in our WhatsApp chat group. Dilbar and I knew that we wanted to work on silk, embroidery, painting with dyes and we also discussed the possibility of printing digitally on silk. In the end we employed all of these mediums and methods while still keeping an improvisational quality to how the final piece would be composed. Conceptually, our breakthrough came by way of digitally collaging images of existing fabrics at Dilbar's studio with my own and Dilbar's drawings. This was the layering, the complexity and the blending of mediums, cultures and geometries we were looking for. We also decided to maintain a very earth tone rich palette for the fabrics, embroideries and painting. Since April and May we had realized that the earth tones would be appropriate due to their referentiality to landscape, tectonics, and nature. Dilbar had also wanted to continue a sort of lineage related to my “Earth Paintings” created for the 2nd floor commons at AUCA in the Fall of 2015. Those colors were made from actual earth, soils and coal I collected from the South shores of Lake Issyk Kul, Barskoon and Jety Oguz. We took hi-res images of those colors and used them in the final piece. We had used actual natural materials to paint with and suddenly were now digitally sampling them and resampling them and digitally manipulating them to create layers and new forms for the new piece. Dilbar and I visited a printer who could print on fabric and we made a sample on silk. The printed sample gave us a new perspective on the possibility of further printing on fabric. As we were deciding how much to print we realized that we could print out a long scroll like piece of fabric and then “paint” the wall with it. Once the wall was ready for us, we assembled a team to help us with the installation. Over the course of 5 evenings we installed the print onto the forum wall in a form resembling a unfolding map moving across the wall. We also hand painted with dyes on the unprinted side, painting the forms visible from the other side of the fabric. We also placed most of the stretched and embroidered silk paintings around the large print as “satellites” moving around the large “map”. By this point Dilbar and I's language barrier felt almost nonexistent. We discussed any and every aspect of our project without the need of a translator. We also realized that this was possibly our first collaboration. We regularly discussed how so many options could possibly yield other projects to make dresses with my artwork, paintings with complex embroidery, yurts with her and my designs, she encouraged me to pursue my goal of making my own rugs, and we were teaching each other about our respective fields every day. I constantly showed her the works of artists, architects and thinkers that I am informed by, while she showed me many fashion designs, architecture and materials used for centuries in Central Asia. Knowing and Unknowing Dilbar and I taught each other a lot, and we each learned about many subjects we did not know very much about before. Aside from our conversations we've both had the opportunities to have a dialogue with students, and the public around this project. During installation time there were many a curious passerby, usually students, with whom I shared what we were doing. Many expressed gratitude, interest and curiosity about such an artwork. They wanted to know how it all happened, how it all developed, and how they could get involved in the process. Those conversations can only occur after so much other prior work has been completed. As we finished this project and since I have been back to work in my studio here in Brooklyn, I've felt strongly that “Assembly Complex” represents, and perhaps, resembles a map of the complexities that surround us through language, technology, information, geography, culture and time. We used the most natural and organic materials as well as the most current technologies to arrive at this artwork. More than with any other project in my oeuvre, I've learned that my work is perhaps a highly personalized way of mapping reality that takes one on an orbit to and from the known and the unknown. I've also learned that the unknown is my comfort zone. “Assembly Complex” planted many seeds in me to return to Kyrgyzstan and to start other projects. There are so many unknowns and some already knowns ahead of me in Central Asia. Yet, I'll let my curiosities guide me to continue to build, experiment and connect to the past, present and future there.
Vargas-Suarez Universal New York Sept. 2016
unaccepted proposal for Los Angeles County Museum of Art "Art Lab" titled "Cleaning Space" (2014)
Cleaning Space, or “CS”, is a portable, multimedia installation exhibition stand for displaying artworks, and audio-visual information about the underreported and growing ecological reality of orbital debris, or space junk around our planet's atmosphere, to function as a place for learning, discussion and dialogue. Project Proposal: Cleaning Space will aim to be an interactive, and visually engaging artwork designed to educate, inform and inspire the public to consider an emerging ecological disaster seemingly far and remote, realistic and actual. The content of this artwork will include current knowledge about space junk since the 1950‘s to current discussions about spacecraft design improvements, policy, and proposed solutions from public and private initiatives. Vargas-Suarez Universal studio will produce artworks referencing and depicting visualizations of space junk, orbital debris and atmospheric re-entry waste, aerospace design development, and orbital debris mitigation plans. Screen displays will provide informational, documentary style clips found online, taped interviews and featuring leading experts, such as Donald Kessler, Nicholas Johnson and Bryan O’Connor discussing the science of this growing problem. The entire design of the stand will be produced from materials used in spacecraft design as well as current materials and methods of leading stand design standards to produce a unique art installation functioning as both art and architecture via internet technology, scientific data visualization and a place for critical dialogue adressing this emerging ecological topic. Content to be presented will include research data based on Space Junk/Orbital Debris (background, effects, risk, policy, solutions) sourced from public and private sources including the United Nations (UN), NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), US Naval Research Laboratories (NRL), Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), Livermore National Labs (LNL), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and private entities such as Ad Astra Corp. and the Secure World Foundation. Artistic description:
Cleaning Space will combine various disciplines from the fields of new media, architecture, aerospace and spaceflight development and operations, as an educational and informative artwork. This project can provide a large amount visual and sensory data within a tightly contained space. The space itself can be designed using trade show stand standards, yet made from materials associated with aerospace architecture, as well as digitally fabricated 3-D printed elements. The visual output will be composed of original works of art, both using hand and fabricated methods of production; and DVD content. The video content will gather various sources from my own documentation, on-line sources establishing a collaged methodology of data mining. As an object, CS will also be portable to be able to reach communities and the public in multiple locations. Due to so many advantages in materials and communications technologies, such an artwork can go beyond static object status into a mobile content providing, artist designed object. Emerging technologies:
Cleaning Space will aim to combine the most up to date information and visualization data as well as the most recent eco-architecture metal recycling methods to create a whole and unique grouping of materials and aesthetic considerations. Overall, extensive research will provide the most effective uses of data, materials, and design into this artwork. The biggest challenge will be to repurpose used spacecraft materials into a portable structure.
What is being done about our knowledge of space junk? We know we have created half a century’s worth of expensive waste. Spacecraft design, testing, launching and orbital re-entry produces industrial scale waste. Ironically so many resources are used to create all of this hardware in sterile, and clean rooms and facilities. We have gone to great lengths to produce deadly germ proof trash. Many symposiums, discussions and publications remind us of the problem but we have no concrete solution yet. This project aims to perhaps inspire a future engineer or scientist that will assist in solving this growing problem. Public engagement:
Cleaning Space will provide information normally not associated with art and culture at large. The problem of space junk seems so abstract so far away, but the reality is that t is not. A large obstacle to overcome is to add the Earth's atmosphere to the public's common awareness and understanding of the environment. Basic space junk concerns include threats to the human presence in near Earth space, disruptions in communications, falling toxic industrial waste, and the creation of a ring of toxic trash around our planet. These topics are discussed in the scientific community but barely known to the average citizen. Data interest to the arts:
The results of this type of research and presentation may shed light on the potential to view new subjects and image production outside of the traditional artistic canon. Areas of dialogue and potential discussion may include art/science visualization development and crossovers from the worlds of architecture, aerospace engineering and earth sciences in relation to design, and visualization of quantified information. Similarly, education departments of arts institutions could develop programming involving a variety of subjects and questions from each of these fields. Outside sources of funding and in-kind support: A contingency plan would be secured through the studio's list of private collectors. The studio would provide original artworks in exchange for funds to be allocated to the Cleaning Space project. Currently, the studio has a burgeoning direct relationship with NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield, Mountain View, CA. We are currently collaborating on a solo exhibition scheduled to open at MACLA, San Jose, CA. The studio is also currently in the process of establishing a formal collaborative partnership with NASA through the NASA Non-Reimbursable "Space Act Agreement" (NR-SAA). This type of agreement would allow NASA to loan objects, and various types of documentation to be used as part of an exhibition with a museum. Funding: The cost of such a project is roughly $50,000 with additional funding to be sought out by the studio. Estimated costs: $20,000 stand design, fabrication and materials $10,000 artworks production in Brooklyn, NY studio $5,000 shipping Brooklyn, to LA, CA $5,000 programming and onsite installation $3,000 DVD and sound production $7,000 contingency (unexpected costs)
Reference images: Fig. 1 visualization of space junk around the Earth Fig. 2 screenshot of real time space junk tracking at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Inc. Fig. 3 Delta rocket fuel tank de-orbit fall in Texas Fig. 4 Gas tank de-orbit fall, Iowa, USA. Figures 5-8 are images from actual stands of international aerospace salons and exhibitions that will influence the design of Cleaning Spaces. IMPLEMENTATION PLAN KEY MILESTONES START DATE FUNDS NEEDED
(Major steps in the project development) (Estimated date for each project step) (Amount of funds that will be needed)
Secure NASA Space Act Agreement Summer 2014 $0.00
Design, materials purchasing of stand parts and art materials Summer 2014 $10,000.00
creation of artworks (panels, images, and sculptural elements) Fall 2014- Early 2015 $10,000.00
Research DVD content, production Fall 2014- Early 2015 $10,000.00
Stand processing, media integration Winter 2014-2015 $10,000.00
Shipping and installation open $10,000.00
V-SU statement and process proposal for Starcycle (2014) mural e-mailed to Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara curators. (2014)
from: Rafael Vargas-Suarez to: Miki Garcia-cc: Brooke Kellaway- date: Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 7:14 PM- subject: Re: !! mailed-by: gmail.com
Starcycle is an abstract image referencing movement, both cyclical as well as seasonal and spatial. The image has an accelerated perspective associated with dimensional shifts, visualization models, and cosmological observations found in ancient and contemporary astronomical observations. The circular element can be associated with a telescopic view, a planetary body or a stylized orb. The pyramidal trapezoid gives the circular element a visual base as well as a backdrop. The architecture of the Indigo Hotel will have an added dimension as drives and pedestrians pass by, park or stop to see the image.
Process: The mural can be painted using outdoor acrylic paint markers and outdoor acrylic paint. The linear drawing will be projected and rendered in enamel paint markers, then filled in with paint according to part improvisation and part compositional layout and plan. The aid of 2 assistants working with the artist will speed up and facilitate this process
Schedule: 12-14 days, and sooner if allowed to work with 24/7 access on a Genie lift able to hold up to 3 people and materials.
Documentation of the entire process will occur via HD video as well as hi-res photos. a GoPro cam set up should be considered as well to have a stop motion animation of entire process for maximum documentation.
from: Rafael Vargas-Suarez to: Deborah Cullen-Morales-date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 7:00 AM subject: Fwd:mailed-by: gmail.com-Forwarded message -From: Rafael Vargas-Suarez -Date: Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 7:26 PM-Subject: Re:-To: Darja Demsar
Vargas-Suarez Universal Космос Кодекс (Cosmos Codex) (2013) (work in progress) Moderna galeria, Ljubljana, Slovenia 30th Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts
Космос Кодекс is a wall drawing/reference materials collage. The title refers to the documents and reference materials I use to make all my work. Elements include vintage NASA publications, engineering guides for spacecraft, technical reports for manned spaceflight, space junk mitigation and launch preparations, thermal insulation material, and Russian textiles. The digital prints are sourced from helmet cameras during spacewalks (U.S. and Russian), launch pad cameras, satellite photography, hand-held digital photography by Astronauts and Cosmonauts during spacewalks, telemetry visualization, VR modeling, and earth observation video and photography. The overall composition refers to "the big board", or the multi-panel display screens in mission control centers. The linear "vector" drawings are my method of making sense of so much information and a way of referencing the architecture, mathematics and design elements of these various subjects. Conceptually, I am interested in investigating the potential for aesthetics made for zero-gravity environments as well as extra planetary exploration.
from: Rafael Vargas-Suarez firstname.lastname@example.org: Stephen Barber -date: Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 6:07 PMsubject: statement 2013 for new paintings mailed-by: gmail.com
Thermal Dynamics, Orbital Debris and Telemetric Visualization of Frequencies: Vector Group Paintings from and Within Space
We tend to think of paintings as static, stable objects for our varied viewing experiences. The act of painting itself is regarded as a private, culturally valued and revered act as old as humanity itself. As painters adapt to the technologies of the day, painting becomes more layered, perhaps not physically layered, but conceptually layered, as well as multi-referential and multi-media oriented. My recent concerns regarding subsonic frequency vibration, thermal protection systems, analysis of force limits, and quasi-static load limits of aerospace design and spacecraft design has lead to creating paintings which not only function as a visual reference to these technological subjects but also contain a “voice” each their own. This voice is interpreted through painted linear logic, as well as through a soundtrack the viewer is able to feel and see but not hear. Whereby these paintings vibrate and become non-static objects using sub-sonic energy to create movement and patterns. The vibrating surface alludes to turbulence, music, and natural energies native to air pressure dynamics, as well as frequencies similar to the communications between whales, elephants and other mammals that communictae across vast distances. These paintings employ paint and thermal blankets used in aerospace architecure, all disposable materials in space, becoming orbiting space junk, polluting and disrupting communications. By using these materials as components in painting the works attempt to become more than just a sample reference but a actual artifact between art and science.
Vargas-Suarez Universal& Stephen Barber: Subsonic to Supersonic (2013-2016) sound 25:00 mins. Signed edition of 200. Pressed and printed by Pirates Press, San Francisco, CA Manufactured in Czech Republic
Concept and art direction by Vargas-Suarez Universal Sound design and direction by Stephen Barber Performed by Bob Malach, Andres Levin and Stephen Barber, designed and arranged by Stephen Barber and Bob Malach, engineering by Ray Aldaco and produced by Andres Levin at Pirata studios, New York City, Feb.-Mar. 2013. Mastered by David Boyle at The Church House, Austin, Texas.
Sonic material sources in chronological order: 00:01 Juno keyboard, acoustic piano
Space Shuttle launch (STS-134, liquid hydrogen burning)
slowed down piano (slowed vibration)
sub-sonic whale clicks (narwhal)
4:54 min. elephant
5:04 shuttle rocket booster falling into earth's atmosphere at 2500 mph. after separation from space shuttle
6:45 space shuttle rocket booster parachute deployment
7:20 space shuttle rocket booster splashdown at 200 mph., in Atlantic Ocean
sperm whale (one breath)
Stephen Barber (musique concrete “pipe dreams” 1978)
sperm whale (one breath continued)
killer whale and low notes on acoustic piano, Stephen Barber electronica
12:44 Bob Malach (basset horn)
17:29 Bob Malach (clarinets)
Bob Malach flutes, space shuttle rocket booster falling through atmosphere and sperm whale (18:02 Juno)
22:02 Bob Malach saxophone, breathing, tapping, pad clicks,
22:56 water percussion, Bob Malach key clicking
23:45 Space Shuttle solid rocket booster whistling through Earth's atmosphere in re-entry at 2500 mph.
23:56 Bob Malach finale (interpretation of a V-SU painting)
Cover art and picture disc art source: Vargas-Suarez Universal Extra Vehicular Activity: Improv (2008) oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches Collection of Fundacion Privada Allegro, Madrid
V-SU unaccepted proposal for Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship 2012
Mission Assembly: Space Program Operations for Art Applications
Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program Proposal 2012
I propose to search the National Air & Space Museum's (NASM) collections to study the American and Russian/Soviet space programs from an aesthetics and design perspective. This research will enable me to develop and create artworks directly influenced by cultural, historical and scientific principles related to materials, forms and structures used in spaceflight. My personal and artistic trajectory has led me to a deep interest in this field. I was raised in the Houston suburb of Clear Lake City, home of the Johnson Space Center (NASA) and I studied astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, all while making art related to science. My upbringing exposed me to the lives and work of astronauts, engineers and scientists. Early on I created many aesthetic and philosophical parallels between art and science. I believe many of the structural and material aesthetics from the space programs are reminiscent of modern architecture as well as avant-garde art movements from the last century including, geometric abstraction, futurism, light & space art, and art & technology practices. As an artist and advocate of arts education, I feel that the relationship between these two fields has not been thoroughly explored. It is within this liminal terrain where I operate. How have I applied these fields into my artwork so far? Since 2001, my artwork has been centered around the used of images and data from NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Cal Tech. (JPL), Roscosmos, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Exploration Agency (JAXA) to create paintings, works on paper photographs and multi-media installations steeped in connections between geometry and data. More recently, since in the Spring of 2007 my research and process focused on E.V.A.s (spacewalks). The process has become a regular studio practice dictated by the schedules and live broadcasts of the each spacewalks. One of the greatest challenges is amending my schedule to coincide with these activities. My process involves projecting the live video feed broadcast/data onto my working surfaces, (paper, canvas and walls) recording accumulated markings based on geometric shapes generated by the choreographed movements of the astronauts or cosmonauts. These "shapes" are also generated by the "positive" architecture of the spacecraft and the counter shapes by outer space, the "negative" space. The accumulated drawing marks are then mapped out with "vectors", and assigned colors based on reflections of the earth as reflected on the reflective surfaces of the various International Space Station (ISS) service modules, as well as pure black, representing the constant shift between orbital night and day. The constantly moving curvature of the Earth below, the complex architecture of the ISS and the choreographed movements of each astronaut and cosmonaut, are carefully traced on the wall or canvas during the entire duration of each space walk. From a pictorial/painting perspective I am interested in the visual results acquired through live video broadcasts, and the visual relationship between the vacuum of space, aerospace architecture, and the kinetic energy of the speeding ISS. The completed process results in artworks aiming to depict the complexity and visual dynamic of a choreographed event through use of live data. I have come to view this ongoing project from two vantage points, one from a form of 21st Century Impressionism and from an unorthodox scientific visualization methodology.
Currently, I am continuing the EVA paintings, amongst other projects, as well as researching the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE). This NASA research program tests the effects of space on materials, both organic and inorganic. The hardware trays called Passive Experiment Containers (PECs) are similar in design to watercolor kits or cosmetics samples counter displays. This type of association between a scientific and artistic object is the type of connection I aim to make with my research. I have been in contact with two research staff members of the NASM, Dr. Valerie Neal, Curator, Space History Division and Dr. Cathleen S. Lewis, Curator, International Space Programs and Spacesuits, who have both agreed to make themselves available as advisors. They have both expressed interest in my work as well as informing me of the specific subjects and areas of their expertise that could benefit my research. My upbringing, education, and experience have all been an integral tools for my artwork and research, yet the Collections of the NASM could provide a very rich fountain of hands on knowledge unavailable through the Internet, or in the art world. my focus would be to look at actual spacecraft, augmented by studying the archives and documentation of their development, as well as an array of photographic and multi-media resources. Research at the NASM makes so much sense for my art. My background, both personal and professional, have prepared me for such a challenging opportunity. The artworks I aim to create in the future will be a result of not just my own devices but also an homage to our understanding of our world and beyond.
A Private Contract with Pigments and Pixels: Interview with Fabian Marcaccio
by Vargas-Suarez Universal
A long time admirer and eventual co-exhibitor of Marcaccio (b. 1963, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina) I had the previlige of visiting his studio on a beautiful, but busy Saturday in Manhattan, to talk about his process and ideas related to his animations/paintings. His works are alive, they create a biolgical like presense but like that of an animal too difficult to tame. Add animations to this recipe and you have what looks like the techno-cratic future of art historical archeology.
Interview with Fabian Marcaccio, Sat. March 12th, 2011, Marcaccio Studio, NYC
VSU: Hi Fabian, I wanted to know about your animations process in relation to your paintings. How did you even begin to consider animation for your paintings? Can you tell me about it?
FM: I'm interested in the definition of animation and about the continuity between painting and animation more than with painting in relation to film and video, that are more about capturing, more than working from the ground up towards a totality. I see my animations as part of my pictorial practice, and one of the things I'm interested in of course is painting in motion, but not only motion, but also a painting's behavior.
VSU: In this behavior, is there a particular dynamic you're searching for? Something moving quickly or slowly, how do you orchestrate the dynamic structure of the animation in relation to paint and the moving image?
FM: Well first of all, it started with my Idea that I began to practice already since the early 90's, that I consider all of my paintings as different forms of animation painting. I like to see at my early, so-called “abstract paintings” as a kind of attempt to animate residual pictorial discourse. That's why I use notions of altered paintings, and mutations of painting. After that, I solved the problem in my environmental paintings as I began to consider time and space and I began to see the work through sequential looking and making the work with durational composition, meaning, you cannot see them all together as a large painting or as a series of paintings, or even as a mural. You have to go through a path or a situation where you see a painting in some cases, across a long distance or sites of three blocks, an extension. This concern, of durational time, began to make me think about embedding or working with linear time of a moving image, but working with differential ways of creating highly dense synchretic pictorial compositions, through linear timing. For instance, a good example of syn chronic and diachronic timing is an animation like Terminal Ground. In this piece you have a ground with micro-compositions that reads as the surface of a painting but is activated through a whole diachronic space with all kinds of syn chronic space inside.
I've tried to experiment with possibilities with just animation and animation with sound, but not to illustrate each other but rather, one or the other, and working and building a musical score and and the image score. Of course I don't the music score, my expertise is in the image. So I collaborate with a musician or an engineer. So it is actually about the syn chronic and the achronic animations which is especially interesting because it can be built from the ground up, instead of capturing motion.
VSU: You started creating animations for your work in the early 90's. How have you, as somebody who is using current technologies, see how technology has evolved and your relationship to it. In the last 20 years things like video games and the Internet as well as these new mediums. How has all of this become part of your process in absorbing and using these types of information to be able to do your work?
FB: It is totally a given of course because in each type of work I track and I grow with the technique. For example, the street banner or advertising banner, and the evolution of that. In terms of animation, animation in the last ten years went from a polygonally made nerve animation to different types of geometry to particle animations. My work is actually pretty amateurish in way that i don't want to go towards the embellishment of animation and I'm actually interested in the structural possibilities of animation. Sometimes I say that I work with the trash of animation because I'm interested in certain problems. For instance, polished commercial animation, is more interesting or advertising or film animation as well. My animations are to be parallel to the evolution of animation, but used in a conceptual way, instead of illustration. type of way. VSU: So could we say each animation with time, is in line the latest media of the day?
FM: That's always, again, a given because the software has been advancing. So my way of going through with the advancements create new possibilities happen. For instance, it's interesting, I always use the example of how animation is activating film right now. You have on one side the real captured documentary that is more interesting than anything that an actor could do. So in general, in commercial films, the animation activities that animate a pool or a crowd, have more interest then the actual film. So this is the case for a commercial movie like A Perfect Storm, where they create for the first time a decent water flow. They created a sea and for the first time we see simulacrum of a sea and particles in the fog and all kins of things. There are many many examples of films like this.
I use in some of my animations, elements that relate to that. To the idea of the complexity of particles. And that relates in painting to all kinds of problems from Impressionism and pointillism. In my conceptual use of pictorial material I make use of these new technologies.
VSU: I think that a lot of contemporary painters around the world, with the use of the Internet and all these newer technologies, are able to take advantage of that. Do you also feel that the technology itself is helping artists evolve, and yourself in particular, evolved not just how to view an image, but how to work with the image and the possibilities of any image and all th different directions it can go in. I seeing your work, when I see all the images that you're working with, I think to myself, “well this could be one possible version”. I think to myself, that you may be thinking there are endless possibilities.
FM: Yes, to me the problem is actually how, I mean that opens up a cluster of problems actually. But you to me, the question is how let's say true, or whatever you will call it, are the facts of the structure you use or the message that you present. You know what I mean? That comes together in a way, that' why I see my work as animation on one part then a possible part is a materialization that looks like a sculptural thing; or different techniques of painting. In a way it's an excerise of seeing truth through variants. It's a way of seeing through the “in between” Animators use this notion of “in between”. That's actually something that to me is quite interesting because it is somehow the constant working of originalization of different degrees of copies. That has much more to do with the notion of reality than let's say thinking about a notion of copy or original. So in the degree in the work of the actualizations of the copy is where truth resides, I would say. So for example, truth is in the view of the documentary video of the aim of the missile as much as it is in the result of what the result of the missile hitting is. There is something of part of both truths that is integrated.
VSU: I was a little curios after watching one of the animations, there is a figure with an easel within a war going on. That looked a lot to me like there's definitely a video game influence. Pict orally, what interests you about that type digital space?
FM: Right, that animation is called “The Private Contractor” it was done in a sculptural, and in a muralist way, environmental painting and an animation. It's actually an analysis of a new historical subject that is a private contractor, not the soldier, not the military professional
VSU: companies that are hired for their services
FM: Exactly, if you notice in his uniform he has the logos of the military corporations. I was really into this really ambiguous space, this kind of private entity.
VSU: As you know, they don't have to follow the rules of engagement
FM: Exactly. They open up and are advancing into something different that we know, from the typical state nation, or national soldier, even a mercenary. Maybe it's a retrograde to to the feudal knight, I would say. I was trying to analyze in a critical way what is th state of affairs of war and violence. And as you know I track a lot of that in many many pieces. The violence of the image, and the violence of constructing an image, and the place. and other models of military evolution.
VSU: In the animation the figure, or contractor, is in front of an easel. Perhaps illustrating...
FM: That is pretty literal. I think only until the second war painters were actually on the field.
VSU: Combat artists
FM: exactly, they were painting the war and through photography this is now pretty extinct. This was a little bit to show the kind of what if one of these private contractors were still depicting the action this way. I was using the notion of action painting for the beholder. I was pretty curios of such a foreign activity of painting in a war zone. Idioms with notions of history painting or investigative report painting. So, literally many of my firsts you could almost see them as an investigative report, a notion. and in this case it's in this contractor who happens to be painting in the middle of a battle zone. And of course it quotes the use of video game violence and depictions of action games.
VSU: And from a formal point of view, are you interested how video games, whether they're violent or not, are you interested in pure visual syntax, how they formulate an image how the image moves. Is that something that you address not just in the animation works but just in paintings itself.
FM: Yes, I think that any kind of activity in art actually aims to the new platforms of seeing things and behaviors. I'm interested for instance how my environmental paintings actually activate this kind of action painting of the beholder. I'm really curios about the different video game platforms because they are bringing more much more sophisticated ways of engagement with interaction. Not to be obsessed with interactivity per say, but just to see in a really free form new possibilities of interaction. I think video games are the future of those platforms, because they are highly engaged platforms, much more than movies or much more than moving a finger on top of an ipad, or a keyboard. They create much more actual interesting ways of moving digital material.
VSU: I don't know about you but I've noticed in the last five years that video games are influencing, not just artists, but people working in all different mediums.
FM: Everything! Our way to go to the bank to get money will be influenced by video games. Everything. And physically, because it's one of the easiest ways to interact through an action that goes much more beyond keyboards or any other thing. A literal motion in relation to people in motion. They're influencing everything, especially war. The drones are the prefect example. Then it goes down in a pyramidal way.
VSU: For anything from war to leisure
V-SU "Mixed Signals: The Marriage of Photons, Electrons, Pixels and Pigments in Contemporary Painting". Published in ARTPULSE magazine Fall 2010, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010)
Mixed Signals: The Marriage of Photons, Electrons, Pixels and Pigments in Contemporary Painting
Certain contemporary painters since the early 1960's have adopted and concerned themselves with formally and conceptually exploring the influence of the televised image and/or digitized image in their work. Let's consider how artificial light sources like television screens or computer screens play a role used by painters to aid in the visual construction of the painted image. Dating back to the 1920's, artists were already using the current technologies of the day to create multi-media oriented works. Post-war images have arrived through TV and computer screens faster and more widely than in any other form of technology, literally at the speed of light.
Since the advent of television and personal computer technologies, we have seen how artificial light, moving images and their movement within time-based parameters find their way into artist's formal and conceptual concerns and intentions. We have seen how artists use of color, whether saturated to mimic light intensity or the linear elements of a TV or computer screen influence form and meaning. With the advent and access of digital technologies, we see the pixel as a building block to shape, distort and define contemporary visualization syntax. Several generations of artists have questioned, experimented and achieved to maintain a practice tied to pigment, paint and paint supports under the influence of artificial light (analog or digital) as a source and sometimes primary subject.
Before television artists employed radio, telephone and telegraph technologies to create tele-kinetic or tele-matic works of art. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's “Telephone Pictures” (1923) were made in Berlin via the processes of modern technology: Moholy–Nagy dictated the paintings' specifications by telephone (a relatively new invention at the time) to the foreman of a sign factory. His results are spare geometric abstractions using primary colors and black and white. Impersonal and cold, they were nonetheless achievements in coded excersices in organized visual information placement as an image. The notable Greek sculptor Takis (b. 1925) was so intrigued by radar technologies he used magnetic fields as the basis of his oeuvre. His télémagnétiques sculptures were a clear understanding of movement in the previously static state of sculpture. In François Morellet's “Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares using the Odd and Even Numbers of a Telephone Directory” (1960), the artist uses printed information representing numbers used for tele-communications as a means to produce a dense geometric composition looking like television static in blue and red, both colors being two of the three primary colors for a color television image (the third being green). All three projects involve the movement of information, and as the century moved forward the moving image also became a primary element of visual syntax. The moving image, whether from a projector in a movie house or later at home on television provided color and form as never before seen. Artists, as always were the first to deconstruct and speculate on such matters.
Post-War artists' access to new technologies, new materials and post-war prosperity monies fueled experimentation. Commissioned works of art for public spaces, a growing art market, and media attention created a rich environment for manifestos and statements never before seen. Yves Klein's accomplishments with fire to create paintings of the female figure at the Centre d'essais de Gaz de France, Saint Denis, France; are rooted in photographic processes. The moving bodies' impressions are later revealed as the fire masks the silhouettes through dodging and burning like in a photographic darkroom. The result is of burning photons creating images through movement on the painter's surface. The Zero Group, founded in 1957, whose primary members included Otto Piene, Heinz Mack and Günther Uecker experimented with similar ideas about light and movement. Piene's Lichtballet (Light Ballet) (1961) and Electric Anaconda (1965) test our senses of perception of light through movement of points of light in a dark interior space. Further Piene's Rasterbild, Untitled (Raster-Rauchzeichnung) (1957-58) suggests the raster of the cathode-ray tube of a television.
Several artists concerned themselves with images produced by artificial light in the form of television images. Wolf Vostell was the first artist in art history to integrate a television set into a work of art. Titled, “Deutscher Ausblick” ("German view") 1958. Although not a painting, the artist demonstrates the concern of the artist with such a machine and its potential consequences as a visual medium within contemporary life. Vostell later referred to pieces like this as De-Collages. Such a gesture implies a type of media deconstruction as a platform for a work of art, or an early use of artificial light as a base for transmitting not only images but ideas. Several years later, in Germany as well, Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) repainted photographs in black and white instead of color. Color television broadcasts did not start in Europe until 1967. Birnbaum mentions Richter's images from photos and televised sources as “glimpses of the representational image, like television static fighting with a picture.” Like Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in America, Richter inevitably saw televised images that could be painted. Televised public, historical and timely events were now visual sources to be put down with pigment on canvas in at least 4 continents. Needless to say, the Pop Artists, as well as their contemporaries in the UK, Germany and other parts of Europe, looked to mass media images specifically from television. James Rosenquist (b.1933), like many others saw the horrors of the Vietnam War, commercials for food, and household products and many other consumer items imagery as a backdrop for his prolific paintings of televised images. James Rosenquist's F-111 (1964-65), an American icon at this point, manifests the concerns of Richter, Warhol and many other painters looking at the effects of mass media psychology from a painter's point of view. The colors of F-111 are saturated like the Technicolor-color palette. The level of saturation is as if “control knobs on the back of the painting had been turned all the way up”.
Into the 1970's we see painters approaching artificial light in more immediate and personal terms, primarily through color TV sets at home or even in the studio. Whether as a way to keep up with current events or scheduled entertainment habits, some artists were now tuned in during their studio time. Ed Paschke (1939-2004) tuned into the glow of moving electrons perhaps better than any other painter. In the late 60's Paschke was looking at posters, and graphics depicting popular sports as well as the lowbrow and the underground subcultures of his native Chicago. In his painting Mid America (1969-70) we already see the Technicolor-color glow in his colors in both figures, backgrounds and overall composition. We see a wired, winged wrestling figure, connected to an array of leafed, glowing baseball gloves, both the figure and the gloves are elements from televised sporting events. As he changed the channels he could see more and more visual material to work from. Further west in sunny Southern California a young Jack Golstein (1945-2003) most probably watched American post-war television, watched many films and eventually made paintings based on volcanic eruptions, radio astronomy imagery, war, and atmospheric effects of light. Goldstein painted lightning, supernovas and fire but from a glowing screen shot or stock photo style point of view. He gives these overwhelming events a generic tone. Yet, we can divide his work into paintings based on natural light from weather and natural occurrences, pixelated light from computer screens and projected light from old black and white films. In the late 1980's paintings such as “Untitled (#26)” (1988) we see twenty same -sized rounded corner squares juxtaposed on top of a glowing red/orange and blue cloudy image of a radio galaxy in deep black space. In this painting we see pixels as a form of a visual unit. Pixels are small, but they can depict large scale objects and places of grand scales and distances. One could say that these artists might have seen a spiritual side to the quality of light produced by the cathode-ray tube. One painting teetering on the verge of insomnia or television nirvana is Lakefront Property (1993) by Robert Yarber (b.1948). The painting depicts a woman lying on her stomach in bed facing the glowing light of a television set. Is she going to turn it off, or change the channel or simply getting a closer look at the program she's so captivated by? The subject is the light emmitting from her television. She, her bed sheets and the shag carpet are intensely lit by the dancing electrons she controls with the remote in her right hand. Yarber captures the light in blue hues just as Paschke and Goldstein capture the signal static with the aid of toxic and exotic processed pigments. These images are all painted ahead of their time in a pre-digitized visualization of techno-cratic reality.
Before painters were equipped with laptops, cell phones and wireless communications the use of analog equipment like slide projectors, film cameras, overhead projectors and tranparencies were commom place to transfer, reproduce, enlarge and alter images to be painted. No matter the style or subject matter at hand, most painters always take advantage of current technologies to facilitate their work. Within this technological progression the basic builing blocks of picture making change, the construction of images itself is altered and one can only think of how the Impressionists felt when confronted with photography. The now exhausted “death of painting” is a never ending vortex of defeat in the face of innovation. It is widely recognized that since the 1990's many painters are using digital technologies as a means to producepaintings in a myriad of styles, ranging from geometric abstraction to realistic and representational works. No subject, concept or easthetic is too far removed from the use of current technological means of production in painting. There are meticulous slow methods, fast paced gestures, traditional palette techniques and mixed-media “combines” all existing first as pixels, later to be painted by hand. Even further, some painters are exploring the meaning and physical properties of what it means to paint digitally. Albert Oehlen(b.1954) purchased his first laptop in 1990 and proceeded to produce his “Computer Paintings” well into 2008. Over the years the motif has remained the same for this body or work. After printing the pixelated forms he hand paints in oils to produce images of both mechanical and expressionist gestures. His hand ultimately rids the paintings of being strictly computer paintings. Fabian Marcaccio (b.1963) also works with digital imaging although from photogrpahic images realted to social and political unrest. His “Paintants” are a tour de force of digital, hand painted and architectural concerns embodied as one expansive object. There are sections of layers of paint, layers of images and pieces of silicon plastics, optic plastics and vast amounts of thick impasto oil paint giving the paintings a body unlike any other paintings out there. Marcaccio's use of layered paint mimic the complexity of biological organisms as seen through a computer screen at once pixelated and sharp. In his case, pixels are the cells of the body. Texas-based Jeff Elrod (b.1966) uses pixels to create child-like drawings and doodles on the computer later to be painted as large-scale abstractions. His use of color is as saturated and vivid as the colors on a computer monitor. In many of his pieces such as Envelopes (2002) we see a contour drawing of three stacked envelopes in white outlines on a black ground. This image recalls early “drawing” done on computers by moving around a cursor leaving a linear trace of any designated color to make shapes and foms. In this case the white lines glow against the black abyss of the digital space it came from. Perhaps the real message is inside the envelopes (?) These three painters have concerned themselves with image making in a post-industrial digital society. Yet, in some of their works we see traces of artificial light and it's origins, the computer screen, and before they painted, it was the television screen.
Just as previous artists saw the moving image in black and white, later in color and much later as pixels, artists more recently see moving pixels as a source for painting. Artists such as Xie Nanxing (b.1970) capture the glow of pixels in a similar approach such as Paschke's. Nanxing's untiled photo-realistic paintings from 2001-2003 capture the quality of light as if seen on a computer screen. They depict images related to sounds, a human ear, a person walking on a wooden floor, a person breathing asleep and rain on a windshild while driving. Using images from lens-based media of film and video, he wants to test the viewers visual psycology in relation to painting. Oliver Lutz (b.1973) goes even further when painting in relation to the image as artificial light. His paintings, when completed, are painted over with a coat of paint which only reveals the image underneath through infared reflectography. Somewhere near each painting sits a closed cicuit TV monitor displaying and revealing the hand painted image which exists below the black coat of paint we see in person. The subjects vary, but overall depict public events such as lynchings, NASCAR or landscapes deemed romantic througout the Germanic Alp psyche. The result for the viewer is the ability to see painting as a mediated subject.
The artists mentioned above are only a small fraction of the many artists concerned with painting through advanced visualization methods culled from screens depicting movies, video games, news, and scientific images, amongst many other themes, sujects and concepts. Pigment, colored dirt really, has proven to be mutable, transformational and irrepressible as a lasting medium. Artificial light has been one provider of an open-ended direction to observe painting's multidirectional trajectories. As the Internet, mobile media and higher resolutions in visual media develop one can only wait to see how the 50,000 year old medium of painting evolves. Aside from pigment and the grounds to which they are applied to, light in any form, is a primary tool for any painter. Artists have understood this from the campfires at Lascaux, to candle lit ateliers, to viewing a moon landing on television. The challenge for these painters to is to capture the glow and light the way forward.
Vargas-Suarez Universal New York 2010
“Structuring Mark Lombardi's Narratives: My Memories of His Possibilities in this World” essay published in “THIS: A Collection of Artist's Writings” Jennings, Susan, editor.: Right Brain Words, New York, 2009. ISBN:978-0-615-24937-7. pp. viii, 75-80. (2009)
Structuring Mark Lombardi’s Narratives: My Memories of His Possibilities in this World
by Vargas-Suarez Universal
The late Mark Lombardi called his drawings “Narrative Structures”, a term that very accurately describes his work. The day I met him in early Sept. 1997 I asked him, “So what kind of work do you do?” He replied with a smirk, “I collect information.” From his coat pocket he pulled out a four by five transparency and held it up to a light in front of a boutique window somewhere along Mercer Street in SoHo. What he showed me, as he explained it, was an idea for a large-scale light box. It looked like the diagram of a constellation or a solar system, yet the text was clear enough to distinguish it as a sort of information flowchart. He was very eager to explain its contents in full detail and immediately invited me to his home and studio in Brooklyn. Over a few beers, a couple of joints and many cigarettes, he went on and on about many of Houston’s largest banks, the men who run them, and their “viscous” activities. He called them all “Silent Partners”. He drove me home around 3 AM.. The next evening, the conversations continued. I began to consider his lectures more like lessons and ultimately gifts. They continued regularly for almost three years until the last two weeks before his suicide.
Being from Houston and recent arrivals to New York, Lombardi probably thought I could relate to all the names and places he talked about. He named banks and companies whose names are synonymous with Houston’s petrochemical, banking, shipping, and defense industry establishment. He was right. I knew exactly what, and who he was talking about. Having grown up near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, one witnessed the omnipresence of the world’s most powerful aerospace and defense contractors as well as the banks that helped finance their operations. Almost everyone I grew up with had parents who worked at Grumman, Lockheed, Singer, Boeing, Ford Aerospace, IBM, McDonnell Douglas, 3M, Celanese, Chevron, Honeywell, Conoco, Arthur Andersen, Tenneco, Texas Commerce Bank, Nations Bank, and dozens of other powerhouse giants. Recognizing the names of his Houston subjects came through my personal interests in architecture from the 80’s Houston building boom also called “Third Coast architecture”. Many of the worlds most in demand architects designed the headquarters that house the multinational conglomerates and corporations associated with his work. During his years in Houston, and between running several art galleries there, he was self-employed as a courier, which meant lots of pit stops to many of the skyscrapers and huge office complexes that dot the city, and quite possibly delivered documents to companies that would later inhabit his drawings. He saw many of these same companies here, and lived amongst them. While driving an art delivery truck for a living, before being a full time artist, Lombardi continuously pointed out companies in and around Manhattan with operations in Houston. American General, Enron, JP Morgan, Citigroup, the lists went on and on. Often he would name a Houston address and I would call out the architect’s, or firm’s name. He would say “Penzoil Towers, Transco Energy” and I would respond “Phillip Johnson” Lombardi’s smoker’s gasping-for-air laughter usually capped those conversations.
The more I got to know Lombardi the artist, I realized he had very specific tastes and ideas about contemporary art, all of them with a rebellious edge. Raised Roman Catholic in Syracuse, New York, Lombardi saw another world once he arrived in Texas at age 22. 1970’s Texas, I think paved the way for his tastes and many opinions and interests that became the subjects of his drawings. I believe Lombardi liked the idea of the “Cosmic Cowboy” lifestyle and rebellious philosophy. Hanging out in places like Austin, listening to local bands, he loved punk rock and hated disco, met many artists and became involved in the development of what resulted as the Houston art scene. While in his 20’s, a figure that fascinated him was Stanley Marsh, an eccentric heir to a Texas oil fortune. Well known in upper crust Texas society as a provocateur he would eventually use his lands as testing grounds for all kinds of conceptually humorous pieces, installations and happenings. Lombardi explained his favorite Marsh “piece” which he claimed influenced the circular crop field culprits in the UK as well as the Houston artist duo, The Art Guys (Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth), also friends of Lombardi’s. Mr. marsh hired a bunch of nomadic hippies, all squatting in a field on his massive Texas Panhandle ranch, to mow the grass, in an area totaling several square miles, into the shape of an arrow, pointing at the edge of his property line. His property was, according to Lombardi, next to a federal government piece of land containing secret underground missile silos pointed at the Soviet Union. So when viewed from outer space the spy satellites would see an arrow marking “the spot”. Another staple of the same period is the maverick Bob “Daddy-O” Wade. Mr. Wade, is well known for his colorized photo appropriations of Texas kitsch and large scale Oldenbergian “Iguana-mobiles”, guitars, fiesta imagery associated with Texas, and a passion for all out party animal behavior. A University of Texas art department legend, Mr. Wade’s autobiography includes a passage which includes Lombardi being in the car during one of the many wild, long road trips the boys went on, raising hell, breaking the law and consuming illegal substances. He liked Willie Nelson as the “Outlaw”, whose tax evasion habits in the 80’s landed him trouble with the IRS. He liked many of the earth artists, especially Smithson, as well as the activities of Ed Kienholz, Chris Burden, and Dennis Hopper in California. He read Avalanche magazine and liked talking to Willoughby Sharp at many openings. He once said John Chamberlains’s work was about drinking and driving. Another topic he liked was the past and present “bad boys” of art. From Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Hermann Nitsch along with Rafael Montanez-Ortiz, to Tom Sachs and Damien Hirst, I think Lombardi also wanted to be “bad”. But at age 46 how do you become a bad boy?
Lombardi had a broad understanding and was very well versed in the history and currents of American and European conceptual art. Again, the more radical the more appreciation he showed. We discussed the relationships between an artist’s influence, education and long term results. A point he regularly made is that there is a lineage that official art history will never trace. He gave me the case of Julian Schnabel’s artistic lineage as he saw it. He said Julian Schnabel’s Catholic subjects came from experiencing the works of painter and sculptor Michael Tracy. In the 1970’s Mr. Tracy lived in Galveston, Texas, the young Schnabel was a student at the University of Houston and got to know Mr. Tracy’s work then. Before that, Michael Tracy saw the work of Hermann Nitsch at the Everson Museum in Syracuse earlier in that decade. And he claimed Nitsch saw the works of Antonin Artaud during his early years in Vienna. Lombardi liked to play these games of association and to follow sequence of events and the results they manifest. He claimed that a serious artist must have his or her own version of art history with oneself being at the tail end to make sense of what they do. So I asked him about his and he mentioned the works of the collective Art & Language. We saw an exhibition of their work at the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City in September of 1999 and he studied every single poster, drawing, flag and painting included in the collage/installation. He especially liked the piece titled “Index 01” (1972) composed of boxed index cards, a system very much akin to his own organizational form of record keeping his subjects’ files. As he perused the posters of different events and exhibitions we would comment on how “cool” it was to save all that information. I believe Lombardi had a very clear notion of his own lineage, on his own terms, and through his own prejudices about an artist’s role in society.
Above his interests and respect for all of these and many other artists, he really respected the work of investigative journalists, and documentary filmmakers and especially the alternative press. Although all of Lombardi’s sources were from published, credible, and publicly accessible sources, he often scoured the conspiracy laden press, probably for pure entertainment. He often exchanged e-mails with reporter friends at the Washington Post, and the Houston Chronicle, regarding politicians, CEO’s and a lots of others who he called “flunkies”. He had reservations about the New York Times’ motives and claimed to only read their art section. Often Lombardi was in a good mood after speaking to journalists and I would ask why. Once he replied, “I just got a shit load of more in formation of James Guerin!” and before I asked who that is, he would explode into the details of this subject’s shady financial activities and how a “Washington buddy’ had just sent him articles he had never seen. Lombardi mentioned that a reporter friend told him that he was doing the work they couldn’t do due to deadlines and editorial beuracracies. Several times we watched the television show Frontline. Two episodes about the war on drugs and one episode about the corrupt activities of the Mexican government, during the Salinas presidency, informed him on several subjects for several drawings he was working on at the time. He created files on Mexican President’s and their corrupt relatives. He wanted to make a drawing of the history of the corrupt Mexican political party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). During one of the programs he exclaimed, “This should be in the next Whitney Biennial! It’s much cooler shit!” Unofficial histories were his impetus, his catalysts for understanding how history is recorded, interpreted and analyzed.
Lombardi’s disgust and intolerance for the injustices, lies and price society will continue to pay for the activities of his subjects, was so elegantly drawn, and yet so sarcastically discussed by him. This sarcasm along with his many “politically incorrect” commentaries was the humorous side to his work. One day he asked me if I knew what the “slurk” was. I said, “The what? He said, “S-L-O-R-C, the SLORC!” I replied that I didn’t know and he said, “Sounds like a rock band uh? You know, one of those Trench Coat Mafia kind of bands that you kids listened to!” I later learned that the SLORC stands for The State Law and Order Restoration Council. They are Burma’s prime human rights violators, and a subject in his work. Mark found a real dark humor in all of this. When discussing the horrific realities of say the Bank of Credit and Commerce International fiasco or the Savings and Loans scandal, his eyes would bulge out and usually end in a kind of “we’re all really fucked” laugh. The amounts of monies related to his subjects’ actions are beyond comprehension at times. I think the money figures were a major factor to Lombardi’s fascination within these global networks of greed, deceit and unaccountable irresponsibility. He often asked out loud where the money went, knowing the taxpayers all over the world will continue to pay for generations.
Lombardi’s deep interests in political, financial and defense industry realities was a breath of fresh air during the dot com boom and false promises of the so called new economy. He always talked about producing work that matters. The FBI’s confiscation of his works from the collection of the Whitney, for evaluation immediately following 9/11, is a testament to his faith. He always said, “In New York you’ve got to go for the jugular!” On many occasions while attending gallery openings or exhibitions he would often refer to the art as “techno breezy”, or “art yucko” as well as “inconsequential”. His comments and sharp remarks were probably his way to confront artistic efforts he deemed fashionable, empty and therefore lacking visionary qualities. I think that in many ways living and working and seeing art in New York fueled his suspicions as well as his desires in obtaining the information he needed to complete his works. There were days when he very explicitly expressed his battles with the rat race and he would escape to Syracuse, “where the post office is easy to deal with, lines are short and parking is hassle free”. He would comeback energized and continued with his monologues about the Vatican Bank, the Italian mob, pre 9/11 Osama Bin Laden, Belgian arms dealers, Saudi Sheiks and Texas oil men.
Shortly before his suicide he mentioned to me that all of his drawings were merely ideas for sculptures and installations he was planning to realize. He asked me if I had any books on Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, Fred Sandback and even telescope design. I didn’t think about it much at the time but his arcs, circles and diagrammatic drawings are very reminiscent of plans for mobile-like forms, or freestanding room dividers separating multimedia centers, or information kiosks. We also had a conversation about the chalkboard drawings of Rudolf Steiner and their influence on the blackboard drawings of Joseph Beuys. He agreed with Beuys that one’s later work might feel false and incomplete without doing drawings first. I’ve continuously mused on those comments. Since his passing I occasionally see his work in a private collection or in an exhibition and read the work more carefully remembering conversations filled with those names and thinking about the consequences of their actions, always hearing Lombardi’s laughter in the end.
V-SU proposal description for realized "Search for Life" installation at UTEP e-mailed to curators of "Claiming Space" group exhibition (2008)
from: Rafael Vargas-Suarez to: Monica Ramirez-Montagut and Kate Bonansinga-date: Mon, Jul 14, 2008 at 11:01 PM-subject: preliminary images/concept for VSU piece for Claiming Space exhibitionmailed-by: gmail.com
Dear Kate and Monica, I hope both your Summers are fairing well. I want to let you both know that I've been developing and finalyzing my piece for the Claiming Space exhibition. Attached are preliminary images of sources as well as images of a recent piece that slightly resembles tha overall design of the piece to be made at the Rubin Center.
The piece will be titled:
Search for Life: Aliens, Water and Surveillance 2008 mud wall drawings, vaccumized aluminum thermal blankets, ink jet prints, wall (dims. to be determined)
There are two parallel realities simultaneously occurring within our technological capabilities, both searching for life; using similar technologies, both federally funded and covering large areas of uninhabited land in two different places. The United States Border Patrol (USBP) and NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) are both searching for aliens. Geographically, both agencies are working on Earth and on Mars, and both targeted geographic regions of concern are desert climates with harsh rugged terrain. The USBP and JPL both have unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities, infra-red technologies, and satellite communications for rapid data collection. Needles to say there are two different types of aliens the American government is looking for. The installation in this exhibition examines the parallels between both operations and uses the dual roles of the word "alien" as both an accepted socio-political term and as the scientific slang term for extra-terrestrial life.
I will create a panoramic landscape wall drawing using dirt/soil collected from both sides of the Rio Grande near or around El Paso. The muddy wall drawing/painting will depict the Martian Landscape sourced from recent images produced by the Mars Rover and Pheonix Lander missions currently on Mars. Intentionally, the landscape may resemble the local South West landscape but will be entirely based on Martian topographic imagery. The soil/dirt will be mixed with water, a dessert commodity, as well as leading indicator of extra-terrestrial possible source for life. Layerd in collage style the installation will also be comprised of thermal blankets, used in spacecraft design, as well as emergency relief procedures, and various ink jet prints containing illegal border crossing information as well as martian weather reports and Martian research visualizations.
The overall composition will resemble a graphic "screen savers" sets of "windows", akin to multi-panel screen displays or a busy desktop on a computer screen. I recently exhibited a piece titled Seeing and Mapping the Next Green Sphere, which depicts Martian topography and the instruments used to detect, produce and analyze these images. The entire "collage" measured 4x10 meters.
I have been in touch with Kerry Doyle regarding having a few students assist me in creating the installation, as well as the workshop the afternoon just before the opening. I am really looking forward to this collaboration and appreciate all the preliminary work done thus far. If you guys have any questions please let me know. Thanks, sincerely, Rafael
V-SU statement about Next Green Sphere paintings, e-mailed to the Nuñez Martin Collection, Arrecife, Spain (2006)
“Next green Sphere: Eberswalde” The Eberswalde delta provides the first clear, "smoking gun" evidence that some valleys on Mars experienced on going, persistent flow of a liquid with the physical properties of water over an extended period of time, as do rivers on Earth. In addition, because the delta today is lithified -- that is, hardened to form rock -- it provided the first unambiguous evidence that some Martian sedimentary rocks were deposited in a liquid (presumably, water) environment. The presence of meandering channels, a cut-off meander, and crisscrossing channels at different elevations (one above the other), provided the clear geologic evidence for these interpretations. Your paintings are the first of a series based on the activities that happened in a 14 Km x 19Km area. I find this landscape to be very mysterious. It is of high interest to paint from these places. Any landscape on Earth id fairly recognizable, the topography and geological features are very strange. There are inverted channels, crisscrossing each other, in layers, like nothing on earth. Nature’s choreography created without the slightest regard for other planetary considerations, foreign notions of nature and with sheer force. The reasons behind wanting to create an image from these sources lies deeply rooted in my Hylozoic intentions. Mars might have once had, might now have, and may some day have life. The landscape might change, or be changed by humans. Until those changes, I can use the tools of today to render expressive gestures that represent the activities of past kinetics as well as possible future activities that shape the Martian environment. Present technologies, which includes, oil paints and canvas, and Mars’ past are the keys to generating these images.