D. Dominick Lombardi Examines High and Low Brow Art in 45-Year Retrospective

Sep 13, 2019

D. Dominick Lombardi is a visual artist, writer, and art critic who has been exhibiting his socially-driven works since 1977. A 45-year retrospective of Lombardi's prolific career will be presented on Murray State's campus. Lombardi visits Sounds Good to discuss his lifelong achievements and the upcoming exhibit. 

From the Murray State website:

"High + Low, a 45-year retrospective, features 20 distinct chapters of the art career of D. Dominick Lombardi. The common thread throughout his work is his interest in blending together qualities of highbrow and lowbrow art, as well as his experimentation with various media. 

The exhibition begins with the Cyborgs, a science fiction based series depicting half human/half machine beings. It continues through his East Village days, his earliest forays into sculpture and kinetic art, and the repurposing of a multitude of found materials. A pivotal point in his art career was the Post Apocalyptic Tattoo series, which was prompted by his concerns for the environment and how it would impact our future. After the downturn of the economy in 2008, he began the Street Urchin series that focused on marginalized victims of that era. Most recently, he has explored the social issues of our time, referencing the roots of human morality, which later moved him to the inner city street sticker craze as his stimulus."

Lombardi's four decade-long career began with a pivotal Picasso work. "When I was really young, I stumbled upon an image of Picasso's Guernica [1938] and was really stunned by it," Lombardi recalls. "I had been used to very simple children's books. To see an image that was so complicated and so intriguing to me really went outside the box to me. It really brought my attention to a new visual stimulation, so that really got me interested in it from there. Later on, I guess my experience with underground comics for the first time...when I was in my early to mid-teens...from there, it just kind of took off. [Mentioning] mixing high and low brow, for me, it's really about popular culture and high brow -- what you see in museums -- and trying to find that perfect balance so the general public has an entry point. So it's not as elitist. That's always been my goal."

When asked about major influences at the beginning of his career, Lombardi cites Robert Crumb as an important figure in his life. "His sense of humor, his honesty, his craftsmanship, just the way he brings his intensity to paper. It's just, to me, a constant exploration," Lombardi says. Lombardi used artists like Crumb to find his own definitive style. "I guess I was learning from copying, learning by looking at other artists. [I did] mostly line drawings, things you would see in comic books...that was the easiest thing for me to simulate. I had a pencil, I had a pen, and I could make a line. Later on, looking at other artists' paintings and then starting to paint was far more difficult because of the inability to control the brush. But little by little I got the hang of it, and then I started making my own things. Even at the time I was copying, I still made my own things, but looking at other artists has always been a part of - I would say most - artists' careers." 

Lombardi soon cemented his place in the art world as an established artist with a distinct style - one that emerging artists could emulate, much like he did with Crumb. Lombardi explained some of his better known pieces that will be featured in the retrospective at Murray State. 

"The Reverse Collage [1995-1998] was pretty much about the absurdity of the juxtaposition of advertising and editorial in newspapers predominantly. Sometimes in magazines, but very often in newspapers, you might see an article about some very tragic bombing or murder or something...and then next to it, there's an ad about a sale on meat in a local grocery store. To me, that was always very interesting how we're looking at those two things side by side and not really seeing the absurdity of it," Lombardi explains.

"With Post Apocalyptic Tattoo World [1998-2008], that really came from the birth of my daughter and being worried about the world in a new way. Being worried about her future, thinking about transgenic food...pollution in the air and the water... I thought to say to myself, what about 500 or 5,00o years from now? What are we going to look like? What's the world going to look like? I thought doing this through the eyes of a tattoo artist would make the most sense because as time would go by, we would have more things in our environment that would shorten our lives. Tattoo art is something that many people can relate to from an early age. So if we don't live as long, then the tattoo artist would become the high end artist, and that's basically how that came about."

D. Dominick Lombardi's High + Low: A Forty-Five Year Retrospective, curated by T. Michael Martin, is on view now through September 22nd in the Clara M. Eagle Main Gallery and the adjacent Mary Ed Mecoy Hall Gallery, located on the sixth and seventh floors of Murray State's Price Doyle Fine Arts building. Admission to High + Low is free and open to the public. A catalogue is available for this exhibition. University Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

A gallery talk is planned for Tuesday, September 17th at 5 p.m. in the Clara M. Eagle Main gallery, followed by a reception. 

Visitors of the exhibit will have the opportunity to not only see a myriad of unique and thoughtful pieces, but to also see a physical representation of the timeline of Lombardi's life. "They'll see transitions and growth through my life. As a young man in my 20s, how I saw the world. How I saw it in my 30s and 40s and the things that interested me and were important to me and how that changes over time," Lombardi says. "It's not just about the quality of the work, it's about the world that we live in. Art is always -- as is music -- about the world we live in. So I hope they see that. I think I'll be discussing that. I'll be talking about how things in my life have changed my direction. Like I mentioned earlier, the birth of my daughter...marriage...a car accident, health, you know. Things change as we change, as we grow, and that has to affect our work because art is essentially autobiographical. I cannot separate my life from my work. So that's something I hope that they see and hope that I can express in this talk."

For more information on Murray State's University Galleries, visit the MSU website. For more information on D. Dominick Lombardi, visit his website. "There you'll see images and resume and there's a link to my e-mail, so if they have any questions I'd be happy to answer them. Just for me to add, too, I'm also a curator and an art writer. So I have my views about art in many different ways, and I think that also adds to my career and my life, so I think that's important to mention," Lombardi concludes.