Born 1940, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Paul Laffoley occupies a unique place within the spectrum of Outsider Art. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1940 to a prominent family, he graduated with honor from Brown University in 1962. He studied architecture briefly at Harvard, but was forced to withdraw due to “conceptual deviancy.” Laffoley subsequently studied with Frederc John Kiesler, and in 1968 established a live-work space called the Boston Visionary Cell. He is recognized internationally as a visionary architect and Outsider Artist who has consistently pursued an epistemological-metaphysical inquiry through a prolific archive of large-scale oil paintings and work in a variety of media that bear no relation either to conventional art history or current art trends. As paradoxical as it sounds, Laffoley could very well be Outsider Art’s very own Leonardo DaVinci. In 2001, he suffered a fall, resulting in the amputation of his leg. He often wears a custom-made lion’s foot as a prosthesis.
Laffoley’s daunting paintings weave text and images together in symmetrical compositions that challenge his viewers visually and intellectually. Far from an academic exercise, Laffoley’s inquiry moves at quantum speeds to process the entire scope of human knowledge, and beyond. The artist attributes his ability to work this way to the existence of a chip implanted in his brain by aliens. Marked by a signature tension between the chaos of the information he engages and the symmetry by which he orders it, Laffoley’s work generates a palpable energy when engaged in person. Often balancing familiar symbols culled from the history of philosophy, alchemy, and dominant faith traditions, each work brings together radically opposing ideas and systems of thought, yet refrains from offering easy answers to complex problems—this work he leaves to us, his viewers. What makes Laffoley a true Outsider despite the deeply intellectual nature of his oeuvre is his outright rejection of academic mediocrity, in art or in any discipline, and his radical invitation to follow him regardless of education or art training.
- Jenifer P. Borum
2018, Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
2014, The Adelaide International, curated by Richard Grayson, Australia
2013, The Alternative Guide to the Universe, curated by Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery, London
2013, Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque, curated by Luis Croquer, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle
2013, Paul Laffoley: The Boston Visionary Cell, Kent Fine Art, New York
2013, Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering, Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Raleigh
2011, Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe, curated by Udo Kittleman and Claudia Dichter, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gergenwart, Berlin
2009, Chasing Napoleon, curated by Marc Olivier-Wahler, Palais de Tokyo, Paris
1999, Architectonic Thought Forms: A Survey of the Art of Paul Laffoley 1967-1999, Austin Museum of Fine Art, Austin
1998, Building the Bauharoque, Kent Gallery, New York
1997, Paul Laffoley: Portaling, Kent Gallery, New York
1989, Paul Laffoley: Structured Singularities, Kent Fine Art, New York
American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore
Austin Museum of Fine Art, Austin
Halle Saint Pierre, Paris
Croquer, Luis and Paul Laffoley, Paul Laffoley: Premonitions of the Bauharoque, exhibition catalogue, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, 2013.
Laffoley, Paul and Jeanne Marie Wasilik, eds., Paul Laffoley: The Boston Visionary Cell, exhibition catalogue, Kent Fine Art, New York, 2013.
Rugoff, Ralph and Michael Bracewell, eds., The Alternative Guide to the Universe, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Publishing, London, 2013.
Kittleman, Udo and Claudia Dichter, eds., Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe, exhibition catalogue, Walter König, Cologne, 2011.
Wahler, Mark-Olivier, Mark Alizart and Frédéric Grossi, Palais de Tokyo / 2009 A-Z: From Yodeling to Quantum Physics, Vol. 3, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2009.
Yau, John, "Paul Laffoley: Speculations in Mind-Physics, Work in the Visionary Genre," Grand Street 60 (Paranoia Issue), 2007.
Wasilik, Jeanne Marie, James Mahoney and Paul Laffoley, Architectonic Thought-Forms: Gedankenexperiemente in Zombie Aesthetics, Austin Museum of Art, Texas, 1999.
Wasilik, Jeanne Marie, ed., Paul Laffoley: The Phenomenology of Revelation, Kent Fine Art, New York, 1989.
Steiger, Brad, Gods of Aquarius: UFOs and the Transformation of Man, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, London, 1976.